In Memory of Two Giants of Literature and Opera
by Wis Jablonski, V-Pres. & Robert Sanderson
In April 1616 the world has lost two geniuses whose work influenced the generation of other writers and composers.
On April the 22nd of 1616 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the greatest writer in Spanish language, creator of the “Don Quixote” died in Madrid and one day later, on April the 23rd the greatest poet of all times, William Shakespeare died in Stratford-upon-Avon.
They both lived in the times of two great empires: Spain and England. However their nations were on the reverse course of history; Cervantes’ going down and Shakespeare’s coming up.
Both writers lived in the age of disappearing chivalry and loyalty,” sharing” the ideas and the perceptions of the yesterday’s world.
During his 52 years long life, William Shakespeare left a huge legacy of thirty seven plays, five full-length poems and 130 sonnets. No comments are necessary here; tons of the materials have been written about Shakespeare and his work. He had been the second best- published author just behind the Bible and in front of Agatha Christie.
During his longer, 69 years long life, Miguel de Cervantes also left a large collection of dramatic works (16), including eight of a full length; the anthology of twelve short stories in “Novellas Ejemplares” and four full- length novels which included Don Quixote Vol I & Vol II.
Cervantes' novel Don Quixote was a tremendous influence on the literary world of fiction. It has been translated into all major languages and has appeared in 700 editions.
Carlos Fuentes Macias (1928 – 2012) Mexican novelist and essayist whose honors include the Miguel de Cervantes Prize raised the possibility that: “Cervantes and Shakespeare were the same person, in the sense that Homer, Dante, Defoe, Dickens, Balzac, and Joyce are all the same writer whose spirit wanders through the centuries”.
And that brings us to opera. The Shakespeare work has been the inspiration for many opera composers including (in chronological order) Benda, Salieri, Bellini, Rossini, Verdi,, Berlioz, Thomas , Gounod, Walton, Britten and Reimann. The most popular operas based on Shakespeare plays are: Othello, Falstaff, Romeo & Juliette and the grand opera, Hamlet.
Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” was a motivation for many opera composers including (in chronological order) Paisiello, Salieri, Ditters von Dittersdorf, Mendelssohn, Massenet,
Kienzl, de Falla and Halffter . There are also the operetta, 5 ballets and a famous musical by Wasserman, Leigh and Darion - “The Man of La Mancha”. Even Maurice Ravel made a contribution with a lovely song “Don Quichotte a’ Dulcinee” in 1932.
Because of this momentous occasion Robert Sanderson, musicologist/committee member, and I would like to suggest to our membership a targeted programme for 2017 which would include a selection of operas based on Shakespeare's and Cervantes' works. We would hope it to be a very stimulating and enjoyable programme for all.
Shakespeare's 400th anniversary was celebrated in Stratford upon Avon by a prestigious performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre which included many of England's most renowned actors including Dame Judi Dench,
Helen Mirren, David Tennant, Sir Ian McKellen,
Benedict Cumberbatch and David Suchet.
The performance was shown at the Gold Coast Arts Centre cinema on Sunday, the 8th of May to a full audience !!
It was a superb performance with a superb commentary and a special appearance by HRH Prince Charles with his last (there were seven before him) version of the FAMOUS “to be...”
It was a memorable experience to see that many great actors in one production.