This autumn, many of Washington, D.C.’s arts and culture venues are collaborating to present the Shakespeare Everywhere Festival. The Library of Congress is pleased to participate in this gathering of theatrical productions, concerts, lectures, and educational events on offer through December 31, 2023. Bibliophiles and music lovers can experience two special events as part of the Live! At the Library series: the Shakespeare Everywhere Festival Concert with the Cafritz Young Artists of the Washington National Opera (November 9 at 6:30 p.m.) and a lecture by Shakespeare scholar Marjorie Garber on “Closure and Disclosure in King Lear” (November 16 at 6 p.m.).
The Bard has quite a prolific presence throughout the Library’s collections and buildings. There’s the famous statue overlooking the Main Reading Room. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds two copies of the First Folio, which celebrate 400 years since publication in 2023. There are also print editions of Shakespeare’s works (in many different languages), numerous photographs of Shakespeare performers, newspaper coverage of Shakespeare productions around the world, audio and film recordings of performances of Shakespeare’s plays, documents from Shakespeare productions in the Federal Theatre Project Collection, and countless treasures relating to adaptations of Shakespeare’s works. The Music Division holds many treasures related to opera, musical theatre, and vocal-piano settings of Shakespeare’s plays and texts. Several of those treasures will be on display this Thursday, November 9, 2023, at the Library as part of the Shakespeare Everywhere Festival in Washington, D.C.
The Cafritz Young Artists of the Washington National Opera (WNO) will perform an evening of musical settings of Shakespeare’s works in the Coolidge Auditorium to highlight the central role of music and adaptations in connecting new audiences with Shakespeare’s works (Thursday, November 9, 6:30-8 p.m). Performers include Teresa Perrotta, Kresley Figueroa, Tiffany Choe, Winona Martin, Sahel Salam, Justin Burgess, Nicole Cloutier, and Pei-Hsuan Lin. WNO is presenting the Charles Gounod’s masterwork “Roméo et Juliette” this November at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The concert at the Coolidge Auditorium will include a range of arias, scenes, and ensembles from operating repertoire based on Shakespeare’s works. Excerpts include “The Willow Song” and “Ave Maria” from Verdi’s “Otello,” “Ophelia’s Mad Scene” from Thomas’ Hamlet, excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet” by Gounod, and selections by Britten, Finzi and Sondheim. For those who cannot attend in person, a video of excerpts of the concert will be posted to loc.gov/webcasts in the weeks ahead.
Concertgoers will have the opportunity to see a special display of treasures related to Shakespeare adaptions, the creators of those adaptations, and artist books that reflect characters and themes of Shakespeare plays from the collections of the Music Division and Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The display will be on view from 6-8:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Coolidge Auditorium on Thursday, November 9.
Selected items from the Music Division’s collection:
- The holograph manuscript of Ambroise Thomas’ opera “Hamlet” (1868)
- “Illustrazione Italiana: Verdi e il Falstaff” (1868) – a nineteenth-century collection of imagery exploring Verdi’s setting of “Falstaff”
- The first edition piano-vocal score of Gounod’s ”Roméo et Juliette” (1867)
- The first edition full score of Benjamin Britten’s opera “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” op.4 (1960)
- “A Collection of Uncommon & Rare Pieces of Shakespeare Music” (17th century) in manuscript, various composers
- The ozalid piano-vocal score with manuscript annotations of John La Montaine’s Five Sonnets of Shakespeare, op. 12 (1962), inscribed to Jessye Norman.
- Correspondence between Benjamin Britten and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge regarding his interest in a commission from the Library of Congress (1939)
- Correspondence between Benjamin Britten and Serge Koussevitzky regarding the commission and premiere of Britten’s “Peter Grimes,” op. 33 (1945)
Selected items from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division’s collection:
- Emily Martin’s “Desdemona: In Her Own Words” (2015) – Artists’ Book Collection
- Emily Martin’s “Funny Ha Ha, Funny Peculiar” (2017) – Artists’ Book Collection
- Emily Martin’s “Madness: Reading Hamlet in the Time of Covid-19 and Other Plagues” (2022) – Artists’ Book Collection
- Emily Martin’s “Tragedy of King Lear” (2019) – Artists’ Book Collection
If you are interested in attending the performance and do not have a timed entry pass, please come to the Library at least 30 minutes before the concert start time and indicate that you are attending the concert. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Shakespeare Everywhere Festival is made possible through the generous support of Library of Congress James Madison Council Member Jaqueline B. Mars. The Shakespeare Everywhere Festival Concert is co-presented by the Library’s Music Division, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, and Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement, in cooperation with Washington National Opera.