A Love Made in Shakespeare: Valentine’s Day performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre

Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vex’d a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.
—William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet

Victoria Rose Bonito and Akeem Davis in ROMEO AND JULIET

Victoria Rose Bonito and Akeem Davis in the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s ROMEO AND JULIET.

I think we can all agree: Valentine’s Day is the worst. But at least there’s some good performing arts for that special date night.

This V-Day, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre are giving each other greeting cards, buying each other flowers, and teaming up for a one-night-only concert of music and performance.

Stéphane Denève, guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Stéphane Denève, guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

William Shakespeare serves as cupid for the evening. The orchestra performs music inspired by Shakespeare: selections from William Walton’s score for the Laurence Olivier film As You Like It; the Overture to Beatrice and Benedict (the quarreling lovers from Much Ado About Nothing) as imagined by Hector Berlioz; Tchaikovsky’s depiction of those celebrated lovers Romeo and Juliet; and excerpts from Mendelssohn’s Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including the famous Wedding March. The performances will be led by Stéphane Denève, in his first appearance with the orchestra since being named principal guest conductor in April.

Philly Shakes’ artistic director Carmen Khan sees many similarities between the music and drama. “Songs all have more or less the same basic shape: you start somewhere (“row, row, row, your boat”), journey to somewhere else (“gently down the stream”), then return home ( “merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream”),” she says. “The sonata form of most symphonic compositions is a sort of supersong, made up of many individual songs… If the composer is really good, each of these little songs along the way is a beautiful piece of music in its own right. They become like characters, communicating with each other, revealing each other.”

Othello (Forrest McClendon) puts his whole focus on Desdemona (Lauren Sowa) as they greet each other upon his arrival in Cyprus in the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre production of Othello. Photo by Chris Miller, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre.

Othello (Forrest McClendon) puts his whole focus on Desdemona (Lauren Sowa) as they greet each other upon his arrival in Cyprus in the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre production of Othello. Photo by Chris Miller, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre.

Interspersed with the music will be scenes from the Bard’s plays from an all-star cast from the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre: Akeem Davis; Eleni Delopoulos, Josh Kachnycz, Brian Anthony Wilson, and Mary Tuomanen. They will perform scenes from Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s DreamMuch Ado About Nothing, and As You Like It.

“The scenes you will see and the music you will hear have more in common than just the titles,” says Khan “Like the subthemes and fugatos of a well-formed sonata, every scene is powerful in its own right. You don’t need to see the whole of Macbeth, for example, to be stirred by, ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.’” Happy Valentine’s Day! [Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 S. Broad Street] February 14, 2015; philorch.org.

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.