When Love Speaks, a compilation album released in 2002 (where have I been?) that features interpretations of forty-seven of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, four excerpts from his plays, as well as “Live with me and be my love” by Christopher Marlowe and the anonymous lyric from Shakespeare’s day, “Come again, sweet love doth now invite.”
Most of the selections are read by many of the finest and most distinctive voices in the world (all graduates of The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London). Eight selections are sung by artists as varied as tenor John Potter, R&B star Des’ree, and the South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The recording opens with Joseph Fiennes (of Shakespeare in Love fame) whispering lines (“Be not afeard”) from The Tempest, followed by Annie Lennox singing her own setting of Marlowe’s famous poem. Fifty-one tracks later, the compilation concludes with “Our revels now are ended” from The Tempest, again recited by Joseph Fiennes (whose brother Ralph also contributes to the collection, reciting Sonnet 129).
The venerable voices of John Gielgud (Sonnet 23), Richard Attenborough (Sonnet 17), Alan Bates (Sonnet 66), Alan Rickman (Sonnet 130), and John Hurt (Sonnets 145, 147), are all captured on the recording.
I already loved Rufus Wainwright’s Sonnet 29 (I had no idea his melody had been around for so long!), which I heard first in the televised Shakespeare concert in April. I also loved Keb’ Mo’s rhythm-rich musical rendition of Sonnet 35. Though nearly all of the recitations are captivating, my favorites are Dianna Rigg’s performance of Sonnet 76, Rickman’s 130, Kenneth Branagh’s 30, and Janet McTeer’s 57. The only selections I don’t enjoy (and invariably skip) are the operatic stylings of John Potter (“Come again, sweet love doth now invite”), Barbara Bonney (“The Willow Song” from Othello), and Bryan Ferry’s delivery of Sonnet 18 with producer Michael Kamen’s original melody.
When Love Speaks is a triumph and a treasure.