If music be the food of love, play on

Apr 2016

Kassel “If music be the food of love, play on …”, thus William Shakespeare in his comedy Twelfth Night or What You Will. It was plenty of food for love on Sunday at the crowded opera foyer: Director of the Staatstheater Thomas Bockelmann and renowned guitarist Christoph Denoth arranged a musical recital on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

It focused on the sonnets by the bard from Stratford, which capture the entire dynamics of love affairs in immortal verses. Bockelmann read selected sonnets and added some exciting information – with unpretentious ease, though quite breezy, which rendered the performance somewhat terse.

Love and the transient nature of life are serious topics, but Shakespeare time and again surprises us with his witticisms. “You may smile and laugh”, Bockelmann said. And yes, people did laugh, for instance listening to the obscene Sonnet No. 135 with its ambiguous key word “will” – which can also be a slang expression for female or male genitals.

In musical interludes, Basel born Christoph Denoth, who teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London, was perfectly brilliant. Full of life, with a finely honed dynamic and sophisticated rhythms, the guitarist played works originally written for the lute by Shakespeare’s contemporary John Dowland, who also worked at the court of art-loving Landgrave Maurice the Learned in Kassel. He finished with attractive variations by Spanish composer Fernando Sor to the great acclaim of 180 listeners.

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