University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus

06/30/2019 1:00 pm
06/30/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Spoken word presentations have always been part of my broad spectrum concept of lyric theater programming. I have broadcast recordings of many of William Shakespeare's plays. In the more distant past these were on early stereo Decca/Argo LPs. These studio recordings, made between 1957 and 1964, were part of Decca's series of the complete recorded works of Shakespeare, issued in commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of his birth. It was an audio project of historic significance equal to Decca's series of Wagner's Ring cycle of operas made during the same period with Georg Solti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and a singing cast of some of the greatest operatic voices of the mid twentieth century. Decca's Shakespeare project engaged renowned director George Rylands and the Marlowe Dramatic Society of Cambridge University, plus other "professional players," who were some of the best Shakespearean actors and actresses that Britain possessed. Many of them remain famous names even now in the twenty first century.

In 2016 the entire Decca Shakespeare series- all thirty seven plays, the sonnets and narrative poems- was reissued on compact disc to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the playwright's death. I have acquired the 100 CD Decca/Argo boxed set. I draw upon its discs again this Sunday as I did most recently on Sunday, November 4th of last year with my broadcast of the famous tragedy, Macbeth. Titus Andronicus (1589?) is the Bard's first essay in the mode of tragedy. It follows the five-act model established by the Roman playwright Seneca, and allows for Senecan verbal bombast and blood'n'guts horror. Thomas Kyd's Senecan-style, The Spanish Tragedy (1594) was enormously popular at the time when Shakespeare was just beginning his career. All the playwrights of that time were writing Senecan tragedies of murder and revenge. John Marston's Antonio's Revenge (1599) is yet another example. This play has many similarities to Hamlet. It was staged here at the University of Hartford in 1968 by the University Players under the direction of Edgar Kloten. I was part of that production and took the role of the ghost, Andrugio, who is the hero Antonio's deceased father. I was also one of the disguised conspirators who stab the Macchiavellian tyrant, Piero Sforza, to death. The blank verse of Titus Andronicus gives us intimations of those tragic Shakespearean works of genius to follow.