Shakespeare and Music


Michelle Assay, University of Sheffield, UK

David Fanning, University of Manchester, UK


Music in Shakespeare has long been a favoured topic in both musicology and Shakespearology. Shakespeare in Music, on the other hand, has been a more loosely co-ordinated area of study, to put it mildly being generally confined to studies of individual works and composers, or to collections of essays without much by way of a connecting thread. The reasons are not hard to find. The sheer diversity of musical encounters with Shakespeare, be they in opera, ballet, film scores, song or concert music; the complex collaborative relationship of librettists, directors, choreographers, film-makers and composers; the impact of local, regional and national environments on both conception and realization – all defy neat packaging or theorising. No scholar has attempted an overview of more than an infinitesimal fraction of the works listed in Bryan Gooch and David Thatcher’s monumental five-volume A Shakespeare Music Catalogue (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991).

The present panel attempts no magisterial overview or synthesis. Rather it seeks to showcase some of the latest trends in interpretation, rediscovery and creative renewal of Shakespearean afterlives in music. Focusing on three distinct geographical/cultural regions it raises topics including the following:

  • How Shakespeare scholars and musicologists approach the topic of Otherness, through the example of Verdi’s Otello and its representation on film
  • How composers have risen to the challenge of making operas from King Lear – a task even Verdi found beyond his reach – through the examples of Aulis Sallinen in Finland and Aribert Reimann in Germany
  • How Soviet settings Shakespeare sonnets negotiated with texts, traditions and translations, through the example of the Polish-born, Russian-domiciled Mieczysław Weinberg, whose sonnet settings were blacklisted following the post-war anti-formalist campaign spearheaded by Andrey Zhdanov.



  1. Suddhaseel Sen, Department of Humanities, Indian Institute of Technology, India


‘Religious Othering in Othello and Otello’


  1. Elke Albrecht, Independent Scholar, Helsinki, Finland


 ‘The final challenge? Aulis Sallinen’s last opera King Lear’


  1. Stefan Weiss, University of Hanover, Germany


 ‘“And Music made Tongue-tied by Prosody…” Mieczysław Weinberg’s Opus 33 in the History of Russian Settings of Shakespeare Sonnets’