This week my family made our annual Shakespeare Tavern visit for Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  We have been Tavern regulars for at least ten years, maybe a lot longer than that, and one of the reasons is the music.  It's not often that you get to hear well performed, acoustic music that is not church music and not performed in some stuffy recital setting.  The Tavern's small size and excellent acoustics along with the actors' skills make such a performance possible.

As a voice teacher I have to love the Atlanta Shakespeare Company for their diction.  Many people get put off Shakespeare by the attempt on the part of the actors to speak as rapidly as possible thinking, I guess, that nobody is going to understand a word they are saying anyway -- as if no one actually loves the poetry and the only reason to come is to see some outlandish concept production with lots of pratfalls.  I'll take my Shakespeare plain and well done, thanks very much, the way it's done at the Tavern.  I really think that Shakespeare is fine without being updated or otherwise "improved".

Getting back to the music, though, some of the actors are well-trained singers who are also competent on instruments.  Some are better at their instruments than at vocalism, but all of them put the dedication and focus they give to Shakespeare's words also to the very nice musical arrangements that they perform in the course of a show.  Usually it's one or two people to a part, and rarely have I heard anyone drop the ball.  Often the music is original showcasing the work of some excellent Atlanta composer.  All in all it's one of the best theatrical experiences you can find.

I had a similar experience, believe it or not, with the broadcast of opening night at La Scala in the Carmike Cinema in LaGrange.  I love the movie theater broadcasts by the Met, and I'm glad to see that some of the international houses are getting into the game.  Of all things, La Scala opened its season with Die Walküre.  It was a wonderful modern production, which Wagner needs much more than Shakespeare does.  It was actually the first time I've ever actually felt the power of that opera -- as opposed merely to understanding what I was supposed to be getting out of it.  I was astonished!  Now I've seen three productions of Wagner in which the dramatic effect equalled the musical effect.  Trust me, I've seen many others in which it didn't happen.

So, I've kind of had both ends of the spectrum last week.  A fine production with minimal glitz and maximum theater and another fine production in which there was the total glitz factor added to, but not substituted for, maximum theater.  It was a good week.