Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Themes in classic tale of Camelot still ring true today

November 12, 2014 by Keagan Hawthorne, contributing writer

When the curtain rises on a new production of Camelot, Victorians will get a chance for some time travel. The musical brings King Arthur’s Round Table, with costumes, music, chivalrous knights and all, to life in song, drama, and humour.

The storyline of the Victoria Symphony/Pacific Opera Victoria c0-production explores the fallout from a love triangle between King Arthur, Queen Guenevere, and Sir Lancelot, Arthur’s most trusted knight. Their doomed love destroys the ideals that bound the knights together and causes the downfall of Camelot. But the story ends on a note of hope and renewal.

Giuseppe Pietraroia is the music director and conductor for Camelot (photo provided).

For Giuseppe Pietraroia, the show’s music director and conductor, there’s more to the story than just love gone bad. In fact, there’s a bit of everything when it comes to the themes.

“Loss of innocence, loyalty, duty, honour, perseverance, all of that,” says Pietraroia. “The whole idea of democracy in a sense, and all of the ideals of King Arthur’s court.”

These themes are presented through music that is both catchy and fun, says Pietraroia. “It’s a charming work,” he says. “The music is very lyrical, and there are a lot of little motifs that bring us back to that era of old English knights.”

In the 1960s, Camelot became associated with a bygone, golden age in America. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, many Americans felt their country had lost the faith of a more innocent time, mirrored by the loss of the golden ideals of Arthur’s Camelot.

Sound familiar? It should: Pietraroia says that these were the same things being talked about in the wake of the recent shootings in Ottawa.

“People were talking about how Canada lost its innocence. It always seems that when something like this happens, there is a sense of change and loss. We believe the world will never be the same. But we come through it, and we persevere, and there’s a renewed sense of hope,” he explains. “I think that’s what keeps mankind moving forward; we go through it, and then we become stronger because of it, or despite it.”

Pietraroia believes it’s the function of the arts to help process these public tragedies in a shared way. He argues that this is why funding and supporting the arts is so critical to society. They provide us with tools to process our private response to grief and loss.

“Music has always been a great healer,” he says. “It’s always been something that we can come back to. There were a lot of great works that were written and inspired by tragic events, because it becomes a great consolation.”

One of the reasons for Camelot’s enduring popularity is its ability to present the good alongside the bad, a fusion very true to life. And it leaves us on an upbeat note, says Pietraroia.

“I always try to find a bit of hope in any story, and I think that’s also why Camelot is still very popular,” he says. “This renewed faith that no matter how awful things get, there is always good in anything. That comes through, and it will renew our faith in the future.”

Camelot in Concert
Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23
$40 and up ($15 for students 60 minutes before showtime), Royal Theatre
pov.bc.ca

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