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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 goddesses, 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.
A prelude and three acts
Text: Based on Shakespeare
09 Jul 2005: Performed by Opera Victoria, Victoria University Orchestra, cond Dr Peter Walls; Adam Concert Chamber, Wellington