Country Life

Brush up your Shakespeare

IS there music in Shakespeare? In every line that he wrote, in numerous songs and in limitless characters’ mouths and ears. Orsino calls for it in Twelfth Night, considering it ‘the food of love’; in Hamlet, Ophelia sings her way to a watery death; and Caliban describes the island in The Tempest as being ‘full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not’.

Is there Shakespeare in music? Over the years, composers of all nationalities have been inspired to set sonnets and songs from his plays to music. There are ballets, there are musicals—and the bravest have based operas on his plays. There is something of a mantra as far as opera librettos are concerned, to the effect that second-rate sources make for better adaptations than first rate and,

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