Classical Music

Star Trek's John de Lancie in Colorado Music Festival's Midsummer Night's Dream

John de Lancie, out of Starfleet uniform and into Shakespeare.
John de Lancie, out of Starfleet uniform and into Shakespeare. Colorado Music Festival
There’s something Shakespearean about Star Trek. Or at least there’s something Star Trek about those who love and perform Shakespeare. Case in point: John de Lancie, who played the inimitable fan-favorite character Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation as well several other shows within the Roddenberry universe, including the more recent series Picard. De Lancie will be performing a dramatic reading of Midsummer Night’s Dream with guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni and the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra on Sunday, July 31, at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder.

The show coalesces Felix Mendelssohn’s lush score with a dramatic reading of the play by de Lancie and a select few other performers to “summon Shakespeare’s fairies, royalty and fools in love.” Mendelssohn’s music comes from two periods of his life. He composed the overture in 1826, when he was just seventeen, then returned to Shakespeare’s most famous comedy in 1842, only a few years before his death, to compose incidental music for a production, including one of the most recognizable and widely heard songs in history, the "Wedding March."

“I’ve done a number of productions of this show,” says de Lancie. “I’ve done it solo, which is a little difficult, since I’m talking with myself. At the other extreme is the entire show with 65 performers — dancers, actors, chorus, singers and the orchestra. A big production — those take months of work. When Alberto [Gutierrez, general manager of the Colorado Music Festival] asked me to do this, I looked at the material again, anew, and said, 'Look, let’s not do this with just me. We’ll need a Puck, and we’ll need a Titania if I’m to play Oberon. And we do need the singers, because those songs are so beautiful, and if we’re doing that, we should have the little fairies, the little kids as well.' So it’ll be stripped down to some degree, but it will give the audience some indication of what Shakespeare and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream sounds like.”

The marriage of spoken word and classical symphonic music might sound strange to some, but de Lancie says it fits perfectly. “When you apply that caliber of wordsmithing to music,” he says, “the words actually become part of the music. The words have a musical quality of their own. When they come together, you begin to witness how they live hand in glove.”

That dependence on words, de Lancie suggests, is central to his work over the years. “Star Trek episodes are really tele-plays,” he says. “They’re word-heavy. They require an ability to handle dialogue.” That explains de Lancie’s success in similarly written shows: Breaking Bad, The West Wing, L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, Sports Night and many more.
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Jean-Marie Zeitouni will conduct Mendelssohn at Chautauqua.
David Curleigh
De Lancie is no stranger to the symphony world, either; in many ways, he grew up in it, as his father was the principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra for 23 years. While theater is close to his heart and comprises much of what he’s done throughout his career, de Lancie says that it’s not necessarily his first love. “Plays are the gymnasiums of our profession. It’s where we start," he says. "And then as you need to make car payments — and because you’re interested, and have opportunity — you do film and television. And in my case, a lot of orchestral symphonic work. I’ve incorporated all that together.”

Joining de Lancie in the performance is his wife and fellow actor, Marnie Mosiman, as well as soprano Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson and mezzo soprano Abigail Nims. A meet-and-greet session with de Lancie will follow the concert, free to all ticket holders.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with John de Lancie, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 31, Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder. For tickets and more information, see the Colorado Music Festival website.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen