For a very long time I had made no effort to understand Shakespeare, owing principally to my belief that he was overrated. Then I saw Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet (even though I couldn’t stand Leonardo those days), which used the original text of the play without modifications (except for omissions and rearrangements).
To put it simply, I was swept off my feet. I had seen Shakespeare in Love already (which I thought was a great movie), and I had my personal favourites among his sonnets too, but I had not encountered the scale and scope of his genius in his plays (just like no matter how many great short stories you have read from Oscar Wilde, you can’t just begin to appreciate/worship him till you have read the plays). But I will stop short of making this post a critical analysis of Shakespeare.
Around noon today, waiting for an auto at the traffic cross, it suddenly hit me why I had not been able to appreciate Shakespeare. Take the over-promoted Sonnet 18 for instance. Since my early school days, I have read it in about a hundred different anthologies. And how does it start? Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?! To imitate Vineeth mildly – summer’s day my ass! Honestly, who in his right mind would like to compare his darling love, more temperate or not, to a brutal summer’s day in India?
Well, the middle aged husband might do that to his wife, particularly in light of the lines to follow – But thy eternal summer shall not fade. But what does a budding high school romantic like me thinks? Well, I am thanking the lord almighty that … summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
On second thoughts, I wouldn’t characterize myself as a budding high school romantic. Yes, my favourite stories from R N Tagore’s Twenty One Stories were Aparichita (The Stranger), Samapti (The End) and Patro O Patri (The Bride and The Groom), but I was yet to be humbled by the touch of affection and love. The years in High School were the last days of complete self-independence, of the arrogance of youth.
Those were also the days complete confidence, when I didn’t censor my critical opinions according to the group I was with. I remember swearing by Ramakanta Ratha’s Sri Palatak (Mr Fugitive – it was considered a failure as a sequel to Sri Radha, but it had some really awesome poems which is all that mattered.). I also remember holding a bonfire to burn Voltaire‘s Candid, a book that I hated from my guts, a feeling also shared by some of my friends who took part in that ritual.
Ending my digression, I come back to Shakespeare and Vivaldi. If you remember Joseph Fiennes (I am a huge fan, and I plan to travel to London some day to see him in some production of Shakespeare. Hamlet, if you’ll please.), well, he is going to portray Vivaldi in the upcoming movie (but beware, there are two movies in making).
Happy as I am that a movie is going to be made on Vivaldi, particularly because it’ll raise awareness beyond the Four Seasons, I am also apprehensive that it might push the idea of program music too far to make for a visually rich but conceptually misleading portrayal of the way music is made (but then, who didn’t love the scene leading to the death of Mozart in Amadeus?). I despise the oversold fad of program music anyway.
Free recordings of the Four Seasons are available from the wikipedia page devoted to it. The recording is perfectly competent, but I personally prefer a higher tempo.
My favourite Vivaldi composition right now is the concerto for two violins.