A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler / Theater

A Singer’s Notes 59: Kristin Linklater performs Shakespeare Sonnets at Shakespeare & Company

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Kristin Linklater
Kristin Linklater

Completeness is its own kind of extravagance. It enables risk. The completeness I speak of is given to us when an artist finds a union between imagination and voice which is set as a seal, neither one or the other in combat for supremacy. A word, a note becomes as much a physical fact as an imagined one. The muscle leads the mind and surprises it with a knowledge of deep things. To achieve this requires much work. To become a babe again, to let out a cry of pure delight is the task of a lifetime. Being finished vocally is one thing (conservatories often stop here), achieving a unity of mind and muscle quite another.

At the end of Shakespeare and Company’s summer season, Kristin Linklater’s performance of sonnets of Shakespeare showed as complete a realization of this as I have ever heard. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” was a real question in her performance. The black ink sonnet — an absolute certainty. The famous No. 116 had a bemused awareness of the latent hyperbole in the poem and was a thing of fun in her hands. Her voice seemed to come directly from the imagined idea-no second guessing-no technical front loading. The sonnets speak a difficult language. Here they attained a simplicity. It was as if I was hearing a newly discovered Shakespeare, already at home in its own skin, simplicity that was not reductive, extravagant rather, and physical. Her voice was so much her that it became the voice of the poet without laboring.

There was playfulness in the crowd. Actors, old and young, students of acting, hung on the words like children learning English. I got a sense, not of knowingness, but of delight. Ms. Linklater’s speaking makes you hold your breath. She gave us newness.

Listen to Kristin Linklater recite Sonnet No. 65.

Listen to Kristin Linklater recite Sonnet no. 116.

Buy the CD or download “Shakespeare Looking East” in which Kristin Linklater recites Sonnets of Shakespeare on Amazon

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