♫ Etre ou ne pas être… ♪

It was a rare treat for me. Rare because for some reason I had never seen a live performance of an opera in French before. Rare because Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet has never been produced by The Washington National Opera until now. And a treat, well, because Hamlet opens May 19th and I got to see it last night during the final dress rehearsal.

Hamlet is an opera in five acts by the French composer Ambroise Thomas. It’s a grand production yet it seems to invariably attract bad press. Audiences, for some reason, have a hard time accepting a singing Hamlet. They also dislike the importance that the character of Ophelia takes. I find these criticisms unfounded. The production was lavish, the costumes superbe and the performances moving. The “To be or not to be” monologue, a high point of William Shakespeare’s play, is rendered (in French) virtually intact in the opera. Apparently, I gave Michael Chioldi, who is sharing the title role with Liam Bonner, a pretty big compliment after the performance when I told him that his French signing was so good that I didn’t need to read the surtitles.

If you love music AND Shakespeare, and are not phased by the idea of a signing Hamlet, you too can be in for a real treat with this dazzling production by Thaddeus Strassberger. The Washington National Opera is presenting Hamlet, May 19 to June 4 with fellow Frenchman Patrick Fournillier alternating as conductor with WNO’s General Director Plácido Domingo.

♫ Etre ou ne pas être… ♪ I don’t think there’s much of a question! Go see Hamlet!

Oh, and a big merci to my favourite second trumpet for inviting us to the performance.

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