This Friday evening Ballet Spartanburg will present the lone presentation of its adaptation of one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved plays, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
One of the more fascinating studies in art is how a work in one medium renders in another. This occurs quite frequently. The modern reader is certainly familiar with the conversion of books to film, but a stroll through any art museum will reveal visual arts drawn from writing is nothing new. Likewise, ballet often culls its libretto from literature. Last year Ballet Spartanburg presented The Mad Hatter, based on the works of Lewis Carroll. But in this case, we’re talking Shakespeare, The Bard, generally recognized as the greatest of all English writers, master of the written word. How can Shakespeare be without words?
Even within the ballet itself is an example. The production features Felix Mendelssohn’s score for an 1843 production of the play. The Overture in E major, Op. 21, was written by Mendelssohn when he was just 17 years old. Sixteen years later Mendelssohn composed what are known as The Incidentals. In neither case was Mendelssohn actually inspired simply by a love for Shakespeare’s play. The Incidentals were composed on commission from the King of Prussia, who, incidentally, spoke English as a second language, his native language being German. Yet he was a great admirer of Shakespeare, and heard a score by Mendelssohn for a production of Antigone by the Greek poet Sophocles. Mendelssohn joined The Incidentals with his earlier Overture to create music for the play. The score contains perhaps the single most recognizable piece of classical music, The Wedding March.
So what is being represented in the music? Of course there is the story, which follows the trials and tribulations of four couples in love: Theseus and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena, and the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. Or is it Demetrius and Hermia? Or Lysander and Helena? Theseus and Hippolyta? Titania and Hippolyta? Shakespeare’s play explores the fickleness and vagaries of love, its vicissitudes, jealousies and rejections. Those things, of which we all are painfully familiar, translate into any medium.
There are things that cannot be expressed in words. Expect to see those Friday night.
Ballet Spartanburg’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” starts at 8 pm Friday, April 24, 2015 at the Chapman Cultural Center. Click here for tickets or call 864-542-ARTS (2787).