Summer 2023 will feature Shakespearean subjects, June 24–Aug. 6
By Peter Alexander Nov. 16 at 10:50 a.m.
Central City Opera returns to their pre-COVID schedule of three Mainstage productions in their main house for the 2023 summer festival season, with three different works all based on Shakespeare: Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod, Otello by Rossini, and Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s 1948 Broadway spinoff from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
The six-week summer season also features the return of CU graduate Ashram Sewailam to Central City, but in this case as the stage director of Otello, rather than as a singer. Another CU graduate, bass Wei Wu who was recently featured in the CU Eklund Opera production of La Bohème, will have a role in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.
The season will open June 24, 2023, with the three productions running in rotating repertoire through Aug. 6. All three will be sung in their original language: Otello in Italian, Roméo et Juliette in French, and Kiss Me Kate of course in English. Season tickets will go on sale Dec. 1. Single ticket sales will begin March 1, 2023. Visit the Central City Opera Web page for more details, including cast and production credits.
Written in 1816, when the composer was only 24, Rossini’s Otello is the earliest of the three works on the 2023 season. It is not often performed today, partly because of the difficulty of casting three difficult tenor roles: Otello, Iago and Rodrigo.
Unlike Shakespeare’s play and the Verdi’s better known opera on the same subject, Rossini’s Otello takes place entirely in Venice. In another departure from the other works, in Rossini’s opera Rodrigo is a major character, the son of the Doge of Venice. He had been promised Desdemona’s hand in marriage, but before the curtain she and Otello had been married in secret. A major dramatic turning point is her father’s disapproval of the marriage.
As in Shakespeare and Verdi, Iago deliberately uses Rodrigo to stir up Otello’s suspicions of his wife. All three versions end with Otello stabbing Desdemona, and then his own death when Iago’s treachery and his wife’s innocence are revealed.
Gounod’s opera was premiered in Paris in 1859, and had more than 300 performances by 1868, including its first performance in the US. The story and the incidents are similar to Shakespeare’s well known play, with Roméo and Juliette falling in love and getting secretly married. There is a duel between Roméo and Tybalt, who is killed by Roméo. The story ends with the familiar scene at Juliette’s tomb.
The story of Porter’s Kiss Me Kate is less a re-telling of Shakespeare than it is a comedic spinoff. The plot revolves around a company presenting musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, with ongoing feuds between the actors playing Petrucchio and Katherine, who are also ex-spouses. The musical includes portions of the play set to music, but also rehearsals, backstage scenes, a side-plot involving gangsters, and a happy ending with lovers united and re-united. Among the songs remembered from the show are “Another Openin’, Another Show,” “Where is the Life that Late I Led,” “Always True to You in My Fashion” and “Brush Up your Shakespeare.”
Kiss Me Kate is considered Porter’s response to Rodger and Hammerstein’s groundbreaking, fully-integrated musical Oklahoma! The winner of the very first Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949, Kiss Me Kate was Porter’s only show to run more than 1000 performances. Although very much a show of its time it has never lost its popularity, and has been revived several times to great success. The most recent Broadway revivals were in 1999 with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie, and 2019 with Will Chase and Kelli O’Hara.