Exclusive look behind the scenes of a European opera premiere
We would like to cordially invite you to an exclusive Premiere Special designed to provide you with an extensive insight of the making of the opera “Hamlet – Prince of Denmark” to be performed for the first time ever on European soil this upcoming May. Only days after the world premiere in the U.S., the contemporary opera based on Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy will travel to the Czech Republic where it is dedicated to unite the best of two worlds in a large scale joint international music production:
Hamlet Prince of Denmark
When: May 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Divadlo Na Vinohradech
While American artistic and stage director Julia Aubrey brings her team of stage, light and costume designers, make-up artists and professional and student opera singers from the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Mississippi Opera Theatre, this new opera written by Vienna-based composer Van de Vate will collaborate with Czech conductor Petr Vronský, creative artists from the Národní divadlo Prague, and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in Olomouc to coordinate the European contributions of the co-production.
In writing her grand opera “Hamlet – Prince of Denmark” the successful “Grande Dame of contemporary music”, Nancy Van de Vate, disabused critics of their lasting belief that Hamlet is inherently unsuitable for being set to music. She managed to translate the complex and abstract nature of the Shakespearean language into a coherent musical equivalence.
Over a period of more than six years Nancy Van de Vate not only wrote her own libretto, composed and arranged the entire opera as well as scored all the individual instrumental parts, she also made her own piano reduction, supervised a CD recording of the opera and finally added the accompanying booklet.
The enthusiastic and integral involvement of the composer and the imposing cast of American and Czech professionals and students promise to provide the most exciting insights into this trans-Atlantic opera production that aims at nothing less than to let “the perfect play become the perfect opera”.
Tickets for the opera will be available in the box office of Divadlo na Vinohradech from March 8, 2015, or online.
Nancy Van de Vate was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, studied piano at Eastman School of Music as well as composition at both the University of Mississippi and Florida State University. At Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire she pursued further studies in electronic music.
Her oeuvre includes no less than 10 grand operas, 26 orchestral/choir works and numerous pieces of chamber music, furthermore compositions for vocals, choirs and keyboard instruments — by and large over 130 works in virtually all forms. Van de Vate is one of today’s most recorded living composers of orchestral works.
With the foundation of her contemporary music label “Vienna Modern Masters” and the unbiased utilization of digital platforms Van de Vate has laid the basis for a substantial use of modern state-of-the-art technologies to promote contemporary music around the globe — making her a highly progressive representative of today’s music business.
Van de Vate is a distinctly valuable dialogue partner as for her advocacy of women in the music industry as president of the International League of Women Composers and her bountiful life experiences — from a witness to the ethnic riots in Mississippi in 1964 to living in Indonesia and producing music in the Eastern European States during the Communist regimes.
A much sought-after speaker and widely respected juror, Van de Vate has always considered it one of her top priorities to illuminate the making of her musical works in detail and to let the audience gain a profound insight into the “ingredients” of her compositions.
“Like dance, like choreography, music only exists when it is performed. Otherwise it’s just spots on the page. Until the music is played, it has no life and no existence,” says Van de Vate and puts on her anticipating smile — eager to tell us more once we get together.
William Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” is the most famous and epoch-spanningly popular play in the English language but has rarely been set to music. The arguably best-known instances are an opera by Ambroise Thomas (Hamlet, 1868) and Dmitri Shostakovich’s film music (Hamlet 1964).
Shakespeare’s original play is considerably long and since singing words is generally slower than speaking them, applicable abbreviations are of elemental concern when it comes to limiting the libretto to an acceptable duration. Transforming the complex lyric and its strongly characterizing function into a vocal equivalent constitutes a demanding challenge to the composer.
Van de Vate however couldn’t resist the richness of passion and conflict in the play — the beauty of the language, the high drama and the intense emotions. While staying with the Shakespeare text as far as possible, she successfully created an expressive setting of lines in her libretto just as well as an appropriate music language.
The dramatic shape of her grand opera is built around certain tonalities and melodies, particular motives, and harmonic progressions referenced, “where the moods needed to be tied together”. In conclusion, all the musical elements and tonal colours of the opera version superbly support the wealth of emotions, the sophisticated psychology and the delicate delineation of characters of the Hamlet original.
Saturday, May 30th, 2015, 7:30 P.M.
Divadlo Na Vinohradech, Prague
Wesley Rogers, Hamlet
Bradley Robinson, Claudius
Jennifer Robinson, Gertrude
Andrew Ross, Polonius
Petr Vronský, Conductor
Julia Aubrey, Director
University Of Mississippi Choir, US
Moravian Philharmony Olomouc, CZ