How excited were we to read the headline on Anthony Tommasini's piece in today's Times? "Verdi Versus Shakespeare," it said. All right! Another celebrity beef, this one a beef for the ages! That would show that cacophonous ass-weasel Doree Shafrir! Sadly, however, it turns out that the beef between composer Giuseppe Verdi and playwright William Shakespeare was not as violent or hard-core as we hoped. For instance, the two men never got in a swordfight. Neither stole the other's woman. Verdi thought Shakespeare's tragedies were "one of the greatest creations of man," and Shakespeare died nearly 200 years before Verdi was born. Who knew?
Anyway, Tommasini compares the two versions of the Macbeth story currently playing in New York: Verdi's opera, in a new production directed by Adrian Noble, reopening at the Met tonight, and Shakespeare's play, in the Patrick Stewart–led revival on Broadway. Tommasini seems to think the two works battle each other to a draw, though he does semi-audaciously declare that "Verdi’s astonishing Falstaff makes The Merry Wives of Windsor seem the Elizabethan equivalent of a silly sitcom." Fighting words! It makes us wish Verdi and Shakespeare could have a beef, time and space be damned. Imagine the deathless arias Verdi could compose; we'd love to hear a Renée Fleming croon "O, Shakespeare, cacasenno, vi darò dei calci nei vostri antichi" ("Oh Shakespeare, you smart-ass, I'm going to kick you in your ancient nuts"). And how sweet it would be to open the newspaper and read Shakespeare's rebuttal in sonnet form, with its lovely final couplet: "So just as packed with women is my sloop / In summer, so is Verdi full of poop."
Verdi Versus Shakespeare [NYT]