Striking a Chord in “The Tempest”
Invoking a particular emotion onstage can be challenging to do with spoken words alone. Sometimes you need to strike a chord or two, which is where New York composer Daniel Levy comes in.
An award-winning composer and musician, as well as a graduate of Miami University and NYU Tisch, Daniel Levy has produced over 40 scores for film and stage. For Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s current production of The Tempest, Daniel worked alongside director Anne Hering to create a beautifully provocative original score for the play.
Orlando Shakes marketing department recently sat down with Daniel to learn more about his enchanting musical work on The Tempest:
OST: Can you provide a brief explanation of how you went about creating original music for Orlando Shakes production of The Tempest?
DL: Director Anne Hering explained her vision for the play—what Prospero’s journey was and what the themes or energies were that she wanted to emphasize or explore. Then we invent ways that music can affect or enhance the energy flow in the play, or the flow of information. Text is one form of information. Music is another. Music also has a certain effect on how we perceive time, space, and movement, so there are often these aspects to address too.
OST: What particular challenges did you face while creating original music for Orlando Shakes production of The Tempest?
DL: Coming into the project, I developed some very negative feelings about the main character, Prospero. He seemed to me to be a kind of self-important bully, pushing people around, scaring them, toying with them, making innocent Ferdinand think his own father was dead—kind of a mean, nasty old fart. Then when I saw and heard our own Greg Thornton’s Prospero, I had a new understanding. I liked him again. I understood where Anne and Greg were taking that character and felt good about helping them get there.
OST: What is unique or exciting about the music you created for Orlando Shakes production of The Tempest?
DL: On one level I hope that no one notices it or feels that it is by itself exciting or important. If the music is serving the play, you’ll just engage more with the play and not notice the music so much. That said, I am very happy with the MASQUE score that we concocted and how very beautifully the cast sings it. It gave me a thrill every time I heard it in rehearsals, and I am hoping the audience is elevated and moved in that moment too—as Prospero gives an extravagant and loving gift to his only daughter, a Follies-type show with Goddesses, music, dance.
The other element that I think is exciting is the fact Orlando Shakes commissioned an original score for the production. This shows a dedication to high production values that I appreciate—that’s exciting! Many scores for plays are cobbled together from various pre-recorded sources. This score is written specifically for THIS production, and is unified in its thematic materials the way a film score is unified (we’re working a small number of themes and ideas for maximum effectiveness). The music is both a design element as well as a new original text built to compliment the Shakespeare text, and if we do it right it lifts everything up bit, energizes the world.
OST: What did it feel like trying to create original music that would correlate with the world’s most famous wordsmith’s (Shakespeare’s) script?
DL: There are six or seven songs in The Tempest: drinking songs, mourning songs, spooky songs, celebration songs. When the Bard and his composer collaborated, there was some back and forth about the way the music and lyrics worked together. Since we are now Bard-less, I feel free to edit the text a bit to help make the music land, without damaging the meaning or the poetry. Because I collaborate frequently with lyricists as a co-lyricist (for operas and musicals), I feel pretty confident that I am honoring the original lyrics’ intent.
Book your tickets for The Tempest and here Daniel Levy’s original scores live on stage! Tickets are available online or by calling the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1.