The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0735 Thursday, 24 August 2006
Date: Wednesday, 23 Aug 2006 12:48:05 -0400
Subject: Ades/Oakes Operatic Version of "The Tempest"
I have seen two postings on the Ades opera based on "The Tempest," one
from 2004 and the London premier, and one from this month on the
American premier at Santa Fe. Both were quite negative.
I wanted to add a modest statement of support for the opera after seeing
the performance in Santa Fe on August 11.
Ades is a fascinating young composer, 32 at the time of the composition
of "The Tempest," now 34. The adaptation of Shakespeare's play is just
that, an adaptation and reinterpretation of the piece. The choice to
step away from Shakespeare's linguistic text may draw criticism, but as
in most successful adaptations of Shakespearean material, more freedom
often works better than too much literalism. Consider Verdi's
masterpiece "Falstaff" or Prokofiev's ballet "Romeo and Juliet." In
this version, Prospero's overbearing aspects as well as his inability to
control the inner lives of his family, servants, and enemies are brought
out early. In contrast to Shakespeare's Prospero, who is insistent on
Miranda's sexual purity, this Prospero cannot intervene in the liaison
of Miranda and Ferdinand at the end of the second act.
Also, so much attention has been given to Caliban's position in the play
over the last few decades, and Ades and Oakes give him a sympathetic
role and even end the opera with Caliban's musing on what took place,
once the Europeans have left the island. His music is accompanied by the
off-stage otherworldly cantilena of Ariel. Quite moving in my experience.
The topic deserves much more reflection. Clearly the short rhymed
couplets of Oakes' libretto raise the greatest textual questions.
As for the music I must respectfully disagree with Mary Haradan's
response from August 3. There is a tremendous amount of lyricism as well
as instrumental variety and beauty in the score. I would mention
Caliban's aria on the music of the island near the beginning of Act 2,
the love duet of Miranda and Ferdinand near the end of Act 2, the
magical music of the banquet scene in Act 3, and Caliban's engaging
reflection on the events at the end of the opera.
I also found the audience at Santa Fe quite taken by the opera. A man in
his early 30s next to me had never seen a contemporary opera before, nor
had he ever studied Shakespeare's play, but he enjoyed the opera immensely.
In new and serious works like the Ades "Tempest," first impressions need
to be revisited and extended over time. I will certainly attend future
productions of Shakespeare's "Tempest" as well as Ades' "Tempest."
Best to all,
University of Vermont
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