How Opera Butchered the Bard: The Fraught Relationship Between Shakespeare and Opera

There are over twenty operas based on Shakespeare’s plays and characters, but most of these bear little resemblance to the Bard’s original plays. Since the 1600s, composers have been captivated with the texts of Shakespeare, yet rarely stick to his plot points or narrative structure. In this lecture we study the rocky relationship between Shakespeare on the page and Shakespeare on the operatic stage. We examine operas by Purcell, Britten, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Gounod and many more. We address the alterations made to such classics as Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A live opera singer performs arias and we compare them to the original texts.