The Sunday Opera: Ambroise Thomas' "Hamlet"

Feb 14, 2019

“Hamlet” with a happy ending?  Well, sort of… and we’ll hear it on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/17 3:00 p.m.) with Ambroise Thomas’ 1868 operatic version of Shakespeare’s play.  The libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre, authors of numerous adaptations and opera texts, had the arduous task of shaving down the massive play to mixed reviews – where some critics believe their final product is a concise representation of Shakespeare, others feel that the lack of secondary characters like the gravediggers and the “smoothing” of Shakespeare’s coarse language lessens its impact.

In this version, Hamlet lives, but he lives with the guilt of Ophelia’s death.  The recording we’ll be using comes from 1993 and features Thomas Hampson as Hamlet, June Anderson as Ophelia, Samuel Ramey as Claudius, Gregory Kunde as Laertes, and Denyce Graves as Gertrude, and they are joined by the Ambrosian Opera Chorus and The London Philharmonic conducted by Antonio De Almeida.  Of special interest is Ophelia’s impressive mad scene which Anderson handles beautifully.  After the opera, host Michael Kownacky will continue with an early work of Thomas, his Opus 1, a String Quartet in E featuring the Daniel Quartet.