An operatic setting of the dance-play by W.B. Yeats which is also performable as a dramatic cantata in a concert version. This is a one-act work and is ritualistic in nature reflecting Yeats’ modeling of the text on the Japanese Noh play. The music is at times dark and atmospherlc, and the archetypal symbolism and metaphysical suggestion of the text, wlth its archaic language and bleak images, is a rich source of inspiration for this. The musical language is comprehensive with tonality and atonality used in conjunction with each other to express literary ideas. Written for five solo singers with the main roles being a tenor and a bass, and a dancer, the backing ii provided by a 30 or so piece orchestra including piano, solo electric violin, and gamelan instruments.
(Programme note from composer’s website)
The Tempest is Shakespeare’s most musical play; as Caliban says “…the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs….”. Its musical demands include many songs and many magic effects, storms and a celestial masque.
Strangely, while many composers (including myself!) have written incidental music for the play, there have been very few operatic adaptations. Yet the fable contains all the operatic ingredients of romance, intrigue and comedy with lots of magic thrown in – is the happy ending a drawback!? There is also an important theme of freedom present, as the ‘tangata whenua’ of the island, Caliban and Ariel, struggle to get free from their slavery to Prospero. They finally succeed, and Prospero himself in the Epilogue asks the audience to “set him free” to leave magic and the stage, just as Shakespeare is also signalling his retirement from play-writing.
My adaptation of Shakespeare has reduced his text to about a quarter of the original, and five acts to three.
Act 1 starts with the storm, presents Prospero’s story so far and his relationships to Miranda, Ariel and Caliban, and ends with Ferdinand’s arrival and his falling in love with Miranda. Act 2 is in five symmetrical scenes – courtiers, “comics”, lovers, “comics”, courtiers -, and presents the intrigues aimed at killing King Alonso and Prospero, but thwarted by Ariel. Act 3 provides more magic ( Prospero’s masque of spirit godesses, celebrating the lovers’ betrothal), and leads to the denouement, where Prospero assembles everyone, forgives the would-be murderers, and announces the departure of all the the visitors to celebrate Miranda and Ferdinand’s wedding in Naples. The Epilogue (originally for Prospero alone), is adapted as a vaudeville finale for the entire cast, ending with the everyone adding clapping to their singing, and inviting the audience to join in.
The rousing nature of Celtic music was the basis for this piece which deals with a theme of aggressive competition. It is the final section of a composition commissioned for dance by Michael Parmenter.
Television newsreader (spoken voice), Nobelman (baritone), Castelli (tenor), Galileo (baritone), Boy/Angel (mezzo soprano), Three Priests (tenor/baritones), Heretic (baritone), Christina (soprano), Military Man (baritone), Sea Captain (baritone), Troubadour (mezzo soprano), Cardinal Bellarmino (tenor), Pope Urban VIII (bass baritone), Pope John Paul II (baritone), small chorus of townspeople; flute doubling piccolo, oboe, clarinet doubling bass clarinet, horn, piano, percussion, violin and cello. Electroacoustic music played through at least eight loudspeakers. DVD of visuals.