Week 1: Introduction: The importance in our lives of music and literature
Literature and music in the Old World. Stravinsky adopts Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Roman comedies re-set to 20th-century music, with Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Week 2: The Bible is set to beautiful music!
Psalm 137: “By the Rivers of Babylon” set to contemporary calypso rhythm. Handel’s Messiah. Camille Saint-Saens’ operatic setting of the story of Samson and Delilah. Richard Strauss’ setting of the gospel story of Salome.
Week 3: Shakespeare is turned into opera
Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Verdi’s Otello. Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cole Porter’s adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, “Kiss Me Kate.” John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV, “Batter My Heart,” set to operatic aria, from the contemporary opera Dr. Atomic.
Week 4: 18th and 19th-century literature into music (Part I)
Beaumarchais’ Marriage of Figaro and Barber of Seville become the operatic masterpieces by Mozart and Rossini. Goethe’s Faust is adapted by Gounod for a splendid operatic version. Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” set to music in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Week 5: 18th and 19th-century literature into music (Part II)
Victor Hugo’s La Dame aux Camellias becomes the great favourite opera, La Traviata. Hugo’s Les Miserables becomes the Broadway hit. Merimée’s novelette Carmen as adapted by Bizet. Puccini’s Madama Butterfly receives an interesting reworking by the American playwright D. Hwang, M. Butterfly.
Week 6: 20th-century words into music
The great poem by Robert Frost, “Whose Words These Are” receives a beautiful choral setting by Randall Thompson. Garcia Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz” is adapted by Leonard Cohen, “Take This Waltz.” Thornton Wilder’s The Merchant of Yonkers becomes the wonderful musical Hello Dolly. And, finally, George Bernard’s Pygmalion becomes the wonderful My Fair Lady.