Hollywood Bard

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Sarah Kendall and Paul Rowe (Photos by Sarah Morton)
Jiabao Zhang, Paul Rowe, and Benjamin Schultz
Claire Powling, Sarah Kendall, Talia Engstrom, and Jess Kasinski

In November, University Opera staged Falstaff, an opera by Guiseppe Verdi that draws upon Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

David Ronis, the inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, updated the work to be set in 1930s Hollywood. Shakespeare’s knight who had fallen from grace was recast as an overweight silent film actor who was pushed out of work with the advent of the “talkies.” 

“Our chief concern was to make sure that the essential story of Falstaff was being told,” says Ronis. “Human nature hasn’t changed in 400 years. The desires and passions that make people tick are essentially the same and we recognize those in ourselves when we see a Shakespeare play.”