Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0702. Sunday, 28 August 1994.
Date: Saturday, 27 Aug 1994 14:45:58 -0400
Subject: Tempest Operas
I am sure all the operaphiles on SHAKSPER will jump on the question of the
TEMPEST as a libretto, and will more than likely quote the excellent book by
Gary Schmidgall *Shakespeare and Opera* (1990, Oxford). In it he mentions that
"No other Shakesperean play has tossed as often and as vehemently on the high
seas of music as *The Tempest*. Winton Dean discovered over 30 versions in
1966, and the number continues to rise." I bet there is hardly a person alive
who can hum an air from any of them, but some of the composers who attempted it
are Purcell (1695, but from Dryden's adaptation), J.C. Smith (1726), Halevy
(1850), Nicholas Gatty (1920), Alois Haba (1933), Frank Martin (1956), John
Eaton (1985) and Lee Hoiby (1986). Giuseppe Verdi and Felix Mendelssohn spent
much time and effort on versions of *The Tempest*, but they came to nothing.
Perhaps worth noting, Mozart was considering making a setting of it just after
Die Zauberflote. Although the prospect seems tempting to have operatic
situations and aria-like soliloquies, no one has been able to leave the
story--especially the love interest--alone, and in re-writing it, the whole
thing falls apart, into air. Into thin air.