Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of The Merchant of Venice. It was last on stage 19–20 July 2017 as part of the Summer 2016/17 season.
Bassanio borrows some money from his friend Antonio so he can court the beautiful heiress Portia. Antonio is expecting a returning shipment and so is short on ready cash; he in turn borrows from Shylock. Shylock has previously been much abused by Antonio and only agrees to the loan on the promise that if Antonio defaults, Shylock may take a pound of his flesh.
Bassanio wins Portia’s love – but Antonio’s ships are reported lost, and Shylock insists on his penalty. In court, the disguised Portia proves that it is impossible for Shylock to take only his pound of flesh without also drawing blood, not stipulated in the contract. The court forces the defeated Shylock to convert from Judaism to Christianity.
The Merchant of Venice is the only opera from British-Polish pianist and composer André Tchaikowsky, who was finishing the work when he died from cancer in 1982 at the age of 46. Its world premiere came thirty years later in 2013 at the Bregenz Festival, in a production commissioned by David Pountney in his farewell year as the festival’s intendant. The production was widely praised: John O’Brien’s faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, Keith Warner’s production and most of all Tchaikowsky’s music came in for particular acclaim. The Financial Times concluded, ‘Pountney believes that this opera deserves a central place in the 20th-century canon; this production makes a strong case for his claim’.
Tchaikowsky, who as a child was smuggled out of Poland during World War II, worked on The Merchant of Venice over many years. As Pountney remarks, ‘It is a riveting thought that a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto chose to spend his last years composing an opera based on a Shakespeare play in which we are never quite sure if hatred of the Jews is being condoned or condemned’.