The Virginia Arts Festival presents a unique experience for music lovers, Shakespeare lovers and anyone who loves a good love story.
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra with music by Florent Schmitt, performed by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta will be performed twice in Hampton Roads,
on Friday, May 17th at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News and on Saturday, May 18 at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk.
Romeo and Juliet is often thought of as Shakespeare’s great love story. Antony and Cleopatra is a grown-up love story, “passionate and seductive”. Antony is a great leader of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra is the ruler of Egypt and the most beautiful woman in the world. The moment they meet, they fall in love. JoAnn Falletta, Music Director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra says, “They are so in love; Marc Antony is so bewitched by Cleopatra, that he forgets everything else, including running the Empire.”
This production of Antony and Cleopatra has only been performed twice before. Its debut was at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Bill Barclay is Director of Music at the Globe Theatre. He is the “genius” behind this unique production.
The actors will be fully costumed, including swords. They will perform the classic play directly in front of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.
The score was composed in the early 20th century by Florent Schmitt, “the best French composer you’ve never heard of.” The “wild, exotic, dense and sumptuous music” was written for a six hour production of Antony and Cleopatra performed at the Paris Opera in 1920.
Bill Barclay took bits and pieces of this enormous work and condensed both the music and play into a production that is like “Ravel on steroids.” Barclay says. “It was an enormous puzzle” to take a six hour score and match the best parts of the music with the best parts of Antony and Cleopatra.
The result is “passionate, impressionistic, hyper-driven and full of testosterone.” The actors perform directly in front of the full orchestra.
The music is “large and explosive”. This is not an opera. The actors are speaking Shakespeare’s classic prose. The music and the dialogue are woven together in an almost “cinematic experience.”
JoAnn Falletta says, “You will feel the great intensity of the play through the music and the words. Bill Barclay makes the music a very important character in this production of Antony and Cleopatra.