Shakespeare a la symphony, opera & ballet

Once you come to appreciate the works of William Shakespeare, it’s hard to really get your fill. There’s so much material to choose from — interpreted and presented in a myriad of ways.

Here’s a sampling of Shakespeare-related offerings by Arizona arts organizations…

Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet” presented by the Phoenix Symphony. At Phoenix Symphony Hall on Oct 7-9 (times vary). Concert features both a romantic suite from Prokofiev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet” as well as Hans Krasa’s “Brundibar,” a children’s opera composed in 1938 and frequently performed at a concentration camp in the former Czechoslovakia.

Performers include Phoenix Symphony Chorus and Phoenix Boys Choir. “Brundibar” performance will also include images from a recently published book titled “Brundibar” by author Tony Kushner and famed children’s book illustrator Maurice Sendak (“Where the Wild Things Are”).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream” presented by Ballet Arizona. At Phoenix Symphony Hall on Nov 5-7 (times vary). Ballet choreographed by Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen features “lavish sets, amazing costumes, and fun loving characters.”

It’s “a comedic love story of quarreling fairies, human lovers, and mistaken identity” that’s suitable for the entire family — featuring music by Felix Mendelssohn

Romeo and Juliet” presented by The Acting Company and Guthrie Theater production (special engagement for 2010-2011 Arizona Theatre Company season). At Herberger Theater Center on Nov 4-7 (times vary). This performance by “two of America’s premier classical theatre companies” features Alejandro Rodriguez as Romeo and Kaliswa Brewster as Juliet.

“As You Like It” presented by the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television. At the U of A’s Tornabene Theatre on March 2-27.  It’s the tale of a young heroine, Rosalind, and her journey (disguised as a boy) from her uncle’s repressive court to a complicated relationship with her true love Orlando.

Otello” presented by Arizona Opera. At Tucson Music Hall on March 5 & 6 and Phoenix Symphony Hall on March 11-13. Verdi’s famous opera is “faithful to the text of Shakespeare’s play” about treachery fueled by jealousy and rumor.

Work will be sung in Italian with English subtitles, and feature the towering tenor Allan Glassman (“a gifted mainstay at the Metropolitan Opera”) as Otello.

Opera and Ballet Cinema Series” presented by Harkins Theatres and Emerging Pictures. Showing exclusively at Arrowhead 18, Chandler Fashion 20 and Scottsdale 101 14 (dates/times vary). Series features “the best in European opera and ballet” — including several live performances.

A ballet production of “Romeo and Juliet” will be shown at participating Harkins Theatres March 10, 2011 at 6:30pm. A live opera production of “Macbeth” will be shown June 13, 2011 (time TBA). Series tickets often sell out quickly — so consider yourself warned.

My youngest daughter Lizabeth, now a 17-year-old theater arts student, loved going to opera, ballet and symphony performances as a child — starting in elementary school. It didn’t hurt, I suppose, that she studied ballet and violin starting in kindergarten.

Today she’s a Shakespeare aficionado who has studied Shakespeare with Childsplay, Arizona School for the Arts , Scottsdale Community College and the Utah Shakespearean Festival — and enjoys attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions in Mesa.

To learn more about Southwest Shakespeare Company offerings — including their 2010/2011 season and education programs (including a touring production of “Romeo & Juliet” featuring 2010/2011 Company Interns), visit them online.

While you’re there, check out a cool photo contest of sorts that’ll be held in conjunction with the season’s red carpet opening of “Blood Royal” on Sept 10.

If your child is too young to enjoy these live performances, never fear. You can still enjoy the works of Shakespeare together thanks to the “Shakespeare Can Be Fun!” series, including various titles by Lois Burdett which feature charming drawings, anecdotes and more. 

–Lynn

Note: Featured children’s books are pubished by Firefly Books. I had a great time exploring their diverse offerings online at www.fireflybooks.com.

Coming up: Reviews of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” by Mesa Encore Theatre and “Noises Off” by Phoenix Theatre; Arts management musings from Michael Kaiser (President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)

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