© 2023 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source. Celebrating 75 Years!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WRTQ 91.3 FM Ocean City, NJ, is experiencing an outage. During this time, listen via our online streams, the WRTI app, and on Alexa-enabled devices.

A 19th-Century Opera Making A 21st-Century Comeback: June 11th at 1 PM on WRTI

After a poor performance by a sick tenor, a 19th-century opera based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet languished in an Italian archive for over 130 years. But as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, thanks to the curiosity and perseverance of a contemporary conductor, the work has new life. Anthony Barrese conducts Opera Delaware’s production of Hamlet on WRTI, Saturday, June 11th at 1 pm. Tune in!

Radio script: 

MUSIC: "To be or not to be"

Susan Lewis: The music to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be” – captivated composer and conductor Anthony Barrese, who was painstakingly reconstructing a 19th-century orchestral and vocal score — Amleto by Franco Faccio and librettist Arrigo Boito.

Anthony Barrese:  When I first got to the “To be or not to be” aria, I said, what does it sound like?  I brought it to the piano and I thought — this is a beautiful little piece.

SL:  In 1871, after the tenor’s illness contributed to a disastrous opening at La Scala,  the work was abandoned.   In 2002,  Barrese learned of the opera, then located the manuscript, and began transcribing.  He became increasingly enthusiastic about the music, the characters, and the orchestral writing.

AB:  In every scene he uses the orchestra in a sometimes extended prelude to paint a mood, emotionally, dramatically...  Throughout there are other gems… the play within a play, becomes an opera within an opera and that has some of the most beautiful music in the entire opera, the mad scene has this sweeping melody… every scene has something interesting musically, in addition to the fact that its very close to the Shakespeare.

SL:  In 2014, the newly restored opera was premiered by Opera Southwest in Albuquerque.  Opera Delaware stages its production this month.

Information about The Amleto Project

Listen to conductor Anthony Barrese talk about his discovery of Faccio's Amleto; what fueled his enthusiasm and kept him going during the restoration; and what the completed project reveals to us about the opera's place in music history.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.