• Julian Voloj

CAN WE STAGE THE MERCHANT OF VENICE?


David Serero is starring as Shylock from The Merchant of Venice

Article by JULIAN VOLOJ

Can we stage the Merchant of Venice?

As last summer Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said in order to understand the economic problems of their country, one must read the "Merchant of Venice", there were protests from Jewish organizations, the Kirchner accused her allusion to the figure of Shylock, the Jewish moneylender, is subliminal anti-Semitism.

It may be surprising, therefore, that this January, the Shakespeare piece in the New York Center for Jewish History is listed. "It is a Sephardic staging," explains David Serero, who plays the role of Shylock himself. "It has always been a dream of mine to bring Shakespeare to the stage," explained the Frenchman with Moroccan roots, and so he turned last year to the American Sephardi Federation, the umbrella organization for American Jews with roots in the Middle East, with the idea of a "Sephardic Merchant" shall appear. "No questions, they were at first very skeptical when I told them about my idea."

William Shakespeare wrote the "Merchant of Venice" between 1596 and 1598. The title role has the merchant Antonio, whose friend Bassanio is strapped for cash because he wants the hand of Portia. To help his friend, Antonio borrows from Shylock's money. Shylock requires, "a pound of flesh" from Antonio's body, if the money is not paid back on time.

"Many who accuse Shakespeare of Anti-Semitism have not understood the piece," says Serero and refers to the monologue of Shylock in which he accuses this discrimination. Shylock is a victim of anti-Semitism, and his action was therefore not justified, but understandable. "I can play Shylock, I can understand him," explained the thirty-four actor and baritone. "Shylock is punished because he fights injustice with injustice."

A trained opera singer commutes for 15 years between Paris and New York back and forth, and he has now decided to permanently stay in America. "The situation in France is not good. » In the opening of the play Shylock (Serero) stands alone on the stage and sings "Shalom Aleichem" before the merchant Antonio goes past him and spit at him. In the original, this scene is only mentioned in a dialogue in which Shylock complains that the merchant who has previously spat him in the street, now comes to him to borrow money. For Serero this prelude was a very personal, since he left due to anti-Semitism in France.

"My focus is the relationship between Antonio and Shylock," explains Serero. "It's about the essence of the piece. My interpretation is intended for a modern audience and for Shakespeare purists. "To give a Jewish character in the piece has Serero, whose grandfather was once chief rabbi of Morocco, added traditional Sephardic songs in Ladino. "And my presentation ends with Shylock, as well as at the beginning, singing Shalom Aleichem, as a full circle."

"The Merchant of Venice" is the very first theater production in New York's Center for Jewish History. Due to the broad interest, more productions are already on the way. "The opera Nabucco is planned for April, and in June I will bring Othello in a Jewish-Moroccan adaptation on stage."

And also for his merchant Serero has other plans. "I want to perform my 'merchant' in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice."

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