Saturday, August 15, 2009

Act I Scene 1 - French Rock Opera

In 1976, some would say at the height of his popularity, France's "Elvis Presley", Johnny Hallyday produced a studio double-album based on Hamlet. Though he had hopes of turning this 6-years-in-the-making project into a full blown rock opera for the stage, its commercial failure sealed its fate. With time, it's gotten more respect, but is still an oddity, both in Hallyday's discography and in the world of Hamlet adaptations. You can listen to clips of each track on the French Amazon to get a sense of how it sounded.

For Act 1 Scene 1, we're principally concerned with the first two tracks. The first is a musical Ouverture, just to get you in the mood. Then comes a Prologue, basically an introduction to the project. I will translate it for you here:

"I liked Hamlet's story. I'm not sure why exactly. There are certainly reasons, profound reasons. But... it's not important. I will try to tell you this story... as I felt it. Me. And you will feel the way you want to. You."

A personal vision, but not an expert one. Hallyday doesn't make himself out to be something he's not. And yet, he could be a little more committal about that vision. But since Hamlet is often anything you want it/him to be, it's not necessarily the wrong attitude.

There is no Scene 1. The story starts with Hamlet's first speech which explains the context of the story anyway. So no dancing soldiers with Horatio intoning "Speak to Me" (or some similar song). We'll return to the rock opera then. (And now on to Scene 2!)

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