Friday, April 27, 2012

The Year of the Bard Delaware Style

Delaware is a remarkable state. Just 3 counties, 90 miles long, with an industrial northern county, and agrarian southern counties, Delaware is called "The First State" because we ratified the Constitution first in 1778. Later on, Lincoln dubbed it the Diamond State as it was a microcosm of the United States at the start of the civil war. As a result of being more or less equidistant between New York City and Washington, DC, with Philadelphia and Baltimore nestled between, Delaware sometimes thinks of itself as a cultural backwater. Not so on Sunday afternoon last week! "The Year of the Bard" was the brain child of two of the state's leading cultural arts leaders. Robert Grenfell (First State Ballet Company) and the legendary Lee Kimball (Opera Delaware)happened to chat one day about the possibility of doing a state-wide project involving several arts organizations. So about 200 of us found ourselves in the Grand Opera House in Wilmington on Sunday afternoon celebrating the Year of the Bard with three versions of Shakespeare's balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet". The first section was expertly acted by the Delaware Shakespeare Festival. Then Opera Delaware presented the balcony scene from Gounoud's opera. And this is where Anne Sullivan and I came in: we accompanied two incredible dancers from First State Ballet. You may wonder what we played? The balcony scene from Prokofiev's ballet, R & J. Do you know that music? If not check it out on YouTube. Then imagine, if you will, that music in all it's complexity and power performed by flute and harp. Umhum. Who could make such an arrangement, you might wonder? NOT me!! Anne Sullivan did it. 7 minutes of music that involved research of the many revisions by the composer of just that scene to align with the Ballet Russe's scene that the dancers had learned. It was a gargantuan task that I feel could 1. only been done by Anne, and 2. only been played by her. I pretty much showed up and played, supported by the thousands of times I had listened to that score in my Prokofiev stage. Which followed my Brahms stage and preceded my Sravinsky stage. But I digress. It was absolutely a wonderful adaptation that worked. The dancers rehearsed with us at 12:30 prior to the 2:00 performance. (I seem to see a pattern here) The audience was amazed by all three segments as well as the informative and entertaining commentary between each by Dr.Jay Halieo. Afterward, cake and sparkling wine. Delaware is NOT a cultural backwater by any means. And to take advantage of the small but mighty size of the state to achieve such a feat is brilliant. The Year of the Bard will feature many performances all tracked on a "Bard Card" which, when presented and stamped by participating arts organizations, can be redeemed for prizes. Anne and I will present a concert entitled "The Tempest" in November (date tba) which will be, well, tempestuous! I cannot wait!

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