BBC Radio 3 celebrates the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth

Programmes exploring the Bard's life and works announced

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BBC Radio 3 will mark 450 years since the birth of William Shakespeare with special programmes towards the end of April.

The anniversary celebrations begin on Sunday 20 April with a production of Antony and Cleopatra, a tragic tale of love, power and war. The production stars two giants of British theatre, Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston, after they delighted audiences in a sell–out performance of Macbeth last year.

Also on 20 April, former Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) playwright in residence, Mark Ravenhill, will present a Sunday Feature called ‘Shakespeare: For and Against’. The debate challenges the uncontested opinion regarding the genius of Shakespeare, exploring the literary works of greats such as Tolstoy and Voltaire in comparison to Shakespeare.

RSC artistic director, Gregory Doran, theatre director Phyllida Lloyd and actors Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw, join Ravenhill in an examination of the playwright’s works, his legacy and his importance and value to audience’s today.

On Shakespeare's birthday itself, Wednesday 23 April, a live performance of Choral Evensong will be broadcast from the Guild Chapel in Stratford–upon–Avon featuring the Orchestra of the Swan directed by David Curtis and the Orchestra of the Swan Chamber Choir under John Liggins.

The season ends on Saturday 27 April with Words and Music, a programme featuring the poetry, prose and music inspired by Shakespeare’s most famous works, including pieces by SibeliusVerdiStravinsky and Berlioz.

Holly Harrison