Seminar description
Abstracts of papers

Convenor: Dennis Kennedy


While Shakespeare's place in non-English culture can be approached through a variety of methods and perspectives, it is in performance that his work is most readily adapted to local circumstances, national traditions and languages, political exigencies, and differing aesthetic protocols.

This seminar invited short papers (1500-3000 words) on aspects of Shakespeare in performance, past or present, that relate to European culture as distinct from English culture. (The field thus includes performance in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.) Papers may investigate a single notable performance, two or more related performances, or the general condition or tradition of Shakespeare performance in an area or state.



Monica Matei-Chesnoiu (University "Ovidius" Constanta, Romania): "Shakespeare's Comedies in Performance: Romanian Metamorphoses"
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Necla Cikigil (Middle East Technical University, Turkey: (no title yet)
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Manfred Draudt (University of Vienna, Austria):" Productions of Shakespeare's Histories at the Viennese Burgtheater"
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Nancy Isenberg (Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Rome, Italy): "Romeo and Juliet, from Elizabethan stage to Western ballet. Considerations on John Cranko's choreography performed in Venice in 1958"
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Russell Jackson (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, England): "Organic Shakespeare for the Folk' - the work of Joscza Savits"
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Patricia Kennan (Università Milano-Bicocca, Italy): (no title yet)
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Zoltan Markus (Budapest/Southern Illinois University, Hungary/USA): "Hamlets in warring Europe: Hamlet-interpretations in London, Berlin, and Budapest during World War II"
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Isabelle Schwartz (University of Caen, Basse-Normandie, France) (no title yet)
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Mariangela Tempera (University of Ferrara, Italy): "Much Music: Italian Librettists and Hamlet (1705-1870)"
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Jo De Vos (Universiteit Gent, Belgium): "'Words, words, words': attitudes towards the text in contemporay (Flemish) Shakespeare productions."
abstract / paper

Sylvia Zysset (University of Basel, Switzerland): "Unstopping our mouths - Shakespeare in Swiss-German Mundart"
abstract / paper (in German)


Monica Matei-Chesnoiu (University "Ovidius" Constanta, Romania)

Shakespeare's Comedies in Performance: Romanian Metamorphoses

The paper examines the current state of Romanian theatre and the contemporary stagings of Shakespeare's comedies over the past three decades in the light of the impact of economic and political transformations on cultural politics. Drawing on the assumption that each individual performance of Shakespeare's plays, like reading or criticism is a mode of producing meanings, the paper approaches the productions of Shakespeare's comedies as places where ideology is being produced constantly, not merely communicated. In the course of the Romanian theatres' stagings of 'our Shakespeare,' the comedies afford opportunities for different, even radical readings. The romantic enacting of celebratory fantasies was characteristic of earlier Romanian productions of the comedies. The direction in the seventies and eighties considered capitalising on the serious elements in the comedies, while more recent productions during the nineties drew attention to the conflicting elements within the plays: festivity, carnival, the grotesque, licence.
I will argue that the focus on subversive or oppositional theatrical re-writings of the comedies leads to a reconsideration of the ways the theatre is left to articulate the myths of our society. The directors' emphasis on the transgressive and perverse elements actively undermining the harmony in the comedies has a direct impact on the audiences. It forces them to acknowledge contradiction and draws their attention to the modern theatre as a cultural institution, whose popularity has been threatened by an increasingly peripheral position in relation to other versions of Shakespeare's comedies on film and television. (paper not yet available)

Necla Cikigil (Middle East Technical University, Turkey) "Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew as Ballet"

The Ankara State Ballet Company has recently performed John Cranko's The Taming of the Shrew. John Cranko staged this ballet back in 1969 for the Stuttgart Ballet before he died in 1973. His Katherina was Marcia Haydee who came to Turkey for the staging of the ballet for the 2001 Season. There are earlier varsions of this ballet dating back to 1954 by Bejart and 1961 by another choreographer but I want to concentrate on the Cranko version exploring Shakespeare's play in the medium on ballet.
Shakespeare's plays on various occasions have been translated into ballet language by numerous choreographers, one famous one being Heinz Spoerli who is at present the artistic director of the Zurich Ballet. The Taming of the Shrew is a difficult play to stage as a theatrical play but as a ballet it is even more challenging to create a Shakespearean performance. Yet, as a play it inspired even opera composers like Hermann Goetz (1840-1926), Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) and V.Y.Shebalin (1902-1963) which shows how Shakespeare can appear in different performance media. John Cranko who was the wizard of "Stuttgart Ballet Miracle" created a diversified repertory and worked on challenging projects like translating Shakespeare into ballet with his 1958 Romeo and Juliet for La Scala di Milano and his famous 1962 version of the same play for the Stuttgart Ballet and his 1969 The Taming of the Shrew. I would like to concentrate on : the themes (love and opportunism) characterization humour of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew translated into the ballet version. Cranko has made various alterations in the play to fit it to a ballet version but he kept the parallelism. He also had to make omissions for choreographic reasons but the play is still there and had Shakespeare beena choreographer in his times he would have produced this play making full use of the powerful language of music and dance. (paper not yet available)

Manfred Draudt (University of Vienna, Austria)
Productions of Shakespeare's Histories at the Viennese Burgtheater

Shakespeare's histories have a long tradition at the Burgtheater. Richard II and Richard III were first performed there in 1852, and the most celebrated event of the period was a presentation of the complete cycle in 1875. Shakespeare's history plays, in fact, first came to Vienna not through theatrical performances but through the readings of Karl von Holtei, who presented all ten history plays in the old hall of the Musikverein.
By far the most ambitious project were Leopold Lindtberg's productions of the complete cycle on the occasion of Shakespeare's 400th anniversary in 1964. With set and costumes inspired by the Elizabethan stage, Lindtberg aimed at a balance between comedy and serious elements. Whereas the plays' language was rendered faithfully in A. W. Schlegel's classic translation, the director boldly interfered with the plays' structure, cut rigorously and also reshuffled scenes.
Lindtberg's adaptation invites comparison with Giorgio Strehler's version of 1975 entitled 'The Game/Performance of the Mighty' ('Das Spiel der Mächtigen'). His free paraphrase of 3 Henry VI incorporated many elements of pastiche from other history plays so that the adaptation appeared as a kind of medley filtered through Pirandello.
The most radical change in the artistic policy of the Burgtheater came in 1986 when Claus Peymann was appointed artistic director. Peymann introduced the German director's theatre and systematically politicized the theatre. The most keenly awaited production of his first season was Richard III. Its political message was made obvious right from the beginning: Richard's close-cut hairstyle immediately recalled Hitler and his period. The central point of focus of the bleak set was a huge gully, where Richard deposited all the corpses. The gully was indicative of a reductionist tendency and of a propensity to debase both action and characters, which was even more obvious in the textual changes. The production thus shared serveral features with burlesques or travesties of Shakespeare, particularly those of the nineteenth century.
Yet the great theatrical success of all these different versions provides evidence of the timeless appeal in an 'alien' environment even of those plays in the canon whose Englishness is most overt.
(paper not yet available)

Nancy Isenberg (Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Rome, Italy)
Romeo and Juliet, from Elizabethan stage to Western ballet. Considerations on John Cranko's choreography performed in Venice in 1958

This paper focuses on choreographies of the ballet Romeo and Juliet that are mapped onto Prokofiev's musical score, especially John Cranko's version which debuted in Venice in 1958 not long after he had seen the Russian original. Considerations are offered regarding socio-cultural implications of the Soviet and Western choreographies.
The artistic success of the ballet is discussed in relation to: Prokofiev's fidelity to Shakespeare's narrative; aspects of Shakespeare's script which befit the ballet tradition; and certain features of Shakespearian performance as they move away from a word-based art form and into an exclusively corporeal one.
Particular attention is paid to issues of class and gender. A primary focus is the play's challenging of social codes and defying of sexual taboos. This is explored as it is handled in ballet versions of Romeo and Juliet and also as it relates to the traditions and conventions of ballet in general.
The ultimate aim of this paper is to show not only how ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet illuminates certain aspects of Shakespeare's work, and relates to the specific socio-cultural context in which it is performed, but also how it dances out its own self-referential story.
(paper not yet available)

Russell Jackson (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, England)
Organic Shakespeare for the Folk' - the work of Joscza Savits

The paper deals with the theoretical and practical work of Joscza Savits. Savits' responsibility for the Munich 'Shakespeare Stage' has often been cited as part of the movement towards a rediscoery of Elizabethan staging methods, but its ideological dimension has not been explored. In this paper the work is discussed in the context of his various published writings, with particular reference to his ideals of 'organic' theatre and his mabition to return Shakespeare to the people. His use of the concept of 'Volkstheater' and other forms and compounds with the word ''volk' in his writings are related to his practice and his extensive theatrical career as actor and director, and to the circumstances in which his Shakespearian work was done. In particular, Savits' account of his experiences with the 'Shakespeare stage' in the context of more conventional Shakespearean production style he was usually obliged to work in. The paper draws on research in published sources, and in documents held in the Theatermuseum in Munich.
(paper not yet available)

Patricia Kennan (Università Milano-Bicocca, Italy)

The aim of this paper is to indepth the cultural awareness behind the theatre performances of the three Italians, Adelaide Ristori, Ernesto Rossi and Tommaso Salvini who exported Shakespeare from Italy worldwide, including even Anglophone countries , from the 1850s onwards. Factors to be assessed will include: Italian acting traditions, common performance techniques, economic, entrepreneurial, and socio-political considerations., attitudes to high and low culture.
(paper not yet available)

Zoltan Markus (Budapest/Southern Illinois University, Hungary/USA)
Hamlets in warring Europe: Hamlet-interpretations in London, Berlin, and Budapest during World War II

My paper is based on a longer comparative study of Shakespeare's cultural reception (today variously labeled as "Bardolatry" or Shakespeare "cult," "effect," "fetish," or "myth") in London, Berlin, and Budapest during World War II. This longer work challenges the idea of an all-encompassing universal Shakespeare by demonstrating that "Shakespeare" and his plays transmitted across different histories, languages, and traditions meant something significantly different in the three geographical contexts. Rejecting the existence of a universally absolute and singular Shakespearean meaning, my work demonstrates that Shakespeare is always what he is imagined to be in a cultural and historical context: the various local and national appropriations and the universality of the cultural icon "Shakespeare" clash in the daily practice of interpreting, performing, and teaching his plays. This specific paper discusses Hamlet-appropriations in London, Berlin, and Budapest during the Second World War. It focuses on three theatrical productions and their cultural contexts in the three cities:
1) In 1944 alone, there existed three different Hamlet-productions in London: this paper examines the cultural significance of John Gielgud's version at the Haymarket theatre.
2) In Berlin, the presence of Shakespeare's plays was particularly dominant during the first years of the Nazi period, but he was a relatively popular author during the war as well. One of the most well-known Shakespeare productions was Lothar Müthel's Hamlet (with Gustaf Gründgens in the title role) in the Schauspielhaus. This production opened in 1935 and remained on the program until 1942.
3) Hamlet was frequently played in wartime Budapest as well. Here I discuss a radically anti-war and anti-German production put on stage at the Madách theatre in September 1943. (Director: Andor Pünkösti, Hamlet: Zoltán Várkonyi).
My paper addresses the aesthetic, cultural, and political analogies and differences manifested in these three productions.
(paper not yet available)

Isabelle Schwartz (University of Caen, Basse-Normandie, France)

A new generation of theatre-directors is exploring the theatricality of the Shakespearean corpus, Paul Golub is one of them. An American actor he came to Paris where he further trained with Ariane Mnouchkine (Theatre du Soleil, Paris) before founding his own company. After a creation on Molière based on The Commedia dell'Arte, he staged three Shakespeare plays (all in French), first in an open-air summer Festival, and then in various locations in France. The company '"La Compagnie du Volcan Bleu") is set as a small cast in which all the actors have a decisive say in the elaboration of the performance, costumes and sets included. The actors played jointly in Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth, thus having to stretch their playing versatility. This trend is taken even further in Hamlet sur la route ('Hamlet on the Road'), a play for four actors which also includes puppets and a film. Paul Golub shows a great mastery in conveying the irony of the re-presentation on stage and explores the pleasure of the theatrical act.
The paper will analyze the main features of these Shakespearean renderings stressing on their theatricality.
(paper not yet available)

Mariangela Tempera (University of Ferrara, Italy)
Much Music: Italian Librettists and Hamlet (1705-1870)

The paper will explore the work of Italian librettists on Hamlet. It will focus on Amleti by Apostolo Zeno (which ignores Shakespeare's plays and goes back to Saxo Gramaticus), by Giuseppe Maria Foppa (heavily influenced by Ducis) and by Arrigo Boito (who did try to be faithful to Shakespeare's drama).

I will investigate the response of Italian opera audiences to a 'Nordic' tragedy, much harder to appreciate than such Italianate plays as Romeo and Juliet and Othello.

Jo De Vos (Universiteit Gent, Belgium)
"Words, words, words": attitudes towards the text in contemporay (Flemish) Shakespeare productions

In this paper I would like to explore some of the shifting attitudes to the Shakespearean text in recent times. Whereas up until the sixties Shakespeare's texts - usually in a Schlegel-like translation - were still sacrosanct, the directors' theatre which developed afterwards felt free to adapt the text to the director's interpretation. In the last few decades a new approach seems to have emerged, which is characterized by a return to Shakespeare's words. In many cases the full text - even of a play as long as Hamlet - is presented. Yet, the treatment of the text is probably an exponent of a "postmodern" use of the "words", rather than the Shakespearean drama. This practice is not entirely different from some other drastic adoptations. I intend to explore these attitudes by means a number of interesting and controversial productions of Hamlet.

Sylvia Zysset (University of Basel, Switzerland)
Unstopping our mouths - Shakespeare in Swiss-German Mundart

Switzerland, Europe's leading theatre-land? Surely few people would agree, yet in the Middle Ages Switzerland was indeed in the forefront of European - particularly German-speaking - theatre production. The popularity and political importance of Swiss theatre was made possible by the existence of a pre-Lutheran, Swiss-German written language, which helped its speakers to develop a cultural identity distinct from that of their German neighbours.
Today Swiss-Germans still communicate with friends and family in Mundart, but as the name suggests the language now exists solely in its spoken form. Writing is conducted in Standard High-German, generally regarded as the "language of culture". This has far reaching consequences, not least for Swiss theatre production. A deep divide separates the Swiss professional theatre (a 19th century German import) from the country's rich amateur- and popular-theatre scene, deeply rooted in Swiss theatre tradition and often performed in regional dialects. While the former (often indistinguishable from German or Austrian theatre) is a highly intellectual affair, with dwindling audiences but high critical acclaim, the latter enjoys a wide following, yet is rarely deemed worthy of academic attention.
This paper would like to question the divide, using Shakespeare as a means to bridge the gap. Since the 1970ies an increasing number of Swiss amateur and semi-professional groups have started to perform Shakespeare in Swiss-German dialects. These productions illustrate that Shakespeare's plays need not belong solely to the intellectual domain of professional theatre and that the Swiss-German language &endash; often thought to be unfit for the expression of complicated ideas &endash; can prove a powerful medium for bringing Shakespeare into close contact with the Swiss-German population and adapting his works to Swiss environments. By looking at a number of productions, their texts and contexts, talking to actors, directors and translators and considering reactions of local audiences and the press this paper aims to make a first step towards telling the story of Shakespeare in Swiss-German Mundart.

paper (in German)

Shakespeare in European Culture
Basel, November 2001
conference proceedings

Shakespeare in Europe
University of Basel, Switzerland
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