Operatic trivia question of the week: Shakespeare librettized

Several nights ago, over dinner, a friend who reads this blog (hi, Christa!) posed the following question: How many of Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted into operas?

Off the top of our heads, we came up with five: Verdi’s Otello, Macbeth, and Falstaff; Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette; and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A quick scan of my Kobbé’s Opera Book yielded a few more: Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict (Much Ado About Nothing), Otto Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor), and Hermann Goetz’s Der Widerspänstigen Zähmung (The Taming of the Shrew). But there have to be others too obscure or too recent to make it into Kobbé (my edition’s from 1976). Wikipedia’s entries on Shakespeare plays list adaptations, but they don’t all seem to get everything.

We both were of the opinion that this was the sort of trivia question that would be perfect to toss out to the blog-readership, so, dear readers: what’s missing from the list? And also, a meme-ish question: if you were going to turn any of Shakespeare’s plays into a libretto, which would you choose, and what composer (living or dead) would you want to work with?

9 Responses to “Operatic trivia question of the week: Shakespeare librettized”

  1. Christa says:

    Hi again Amanda! You know I’m no help with your first question, but as for the second, how about something obvious: Wagner and Lear?

  2. Florence says:

    Well, off the top of my head, there is a Hamlet opera by Ambroise Thomas. Also Rossini has an Othello. Wagner’s Das Liebesverboten (sp?) is adapted from Measure for Measure.
    Yes, a Wagner Lear would be fun. As would the Verdi Lear that was never written.
    Perhaps a Titus Andronicus by Strauss.
    Also I’m quite partial to Richard II and Richard III. Maybe Donizetti, as a counterpart to the “three queens.”
    Now I’m going to ponder this all night. Surely there must be some early operas from Shakespeare, but not that I know of.

  3. Florence says:

    Ah! Guilio Cesare is one baroque shakespeare opera.

  4. brd says:

    How about The Tempest by Thomas Ades (circa 1995).
    I would like to hear a Twelfth Night by John Adams.

  5. Patricia Hswe says:

    Hey Amanda (& Christa)!
    Read the latest posting and googled Richard II and Richard III. The latter turned this up:
    . . . which I think I recall reading about when it premiered (because it made me recall the film version with Ian McKellen in the lead role). A British composer (William Walton–I *think* he was a Brit) tried turning Troilus and Cressida into an opera in the mid-1950s (I’m not sure there was a full-scale production but there is a recording of highlights). And then (in 2000) recently Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen turned King Lear into an opera.
    This question provided some diversion from course work–thanks! There’s certainly material of more than enough breadth and depth in WS’s plays for great opera. One of my favorite contemporary composers is John Adams, but I’m not sure which of Shakespeare’s plays his style would complement best (I see someone has suggested Twelfth Night–yeah, I can see that). I also wonder what Samuel Barber might have done (maybe he could have worked with the sonnets rather than the plays).
    Could think about this for more than the few minutes I have.
    Hope all’s well!

  6. Seth says:

    I’d pick _Troilus and Cressida_, both my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays and my favorite of *anyone’s* plays. And I’d love to try to get Michael Daugherty to score it, or, if I can resurrect someone, Charles Ives.

  7. Sarah says:

    Very late to this party, however..
    There are dozens and dozens, but many are obscure – I can’t list off the top of my head, but I know that my Dictionary of Opera and Operetta (from which, alas, I am now separated by the whole of the Tasman Sea) lists far more than you’d ever think.
    And I wish I had a more creative answer to the meme part of the question but the truth is nothing I could imagine is a better thought than Purcell + Midsummer Night’s Dream. Which is (supposedly) what The Fairy Queen is.

  8. Brian says:

    Salieri produced a Falstaff as well. Inferior to Verdi’s but interesting none the less.

  9. C says:

    The Tempest by Lee Hoiby c 1986