Thomas Adès, The Tempest, 2004
Tempest adaptations have failed: in adding
something to Shakespeare’s magical and inherently
lyrical scenario. From the tornado-like prelude to
Ariel’s stratospheric yet ethereal “Five fathoms deep”
the music illuminates rather than merely illustrates
the drama.’ (Gramophone)
But it’s not perfect and there were mixed reviews.
Tommasini thought it ‘one of the most inspired,
He’s regularly described as ‘clever’ and
‘modern’, but Adès makes lyrical (clever,
modern) music. ‘Most music critics have been
hugely impressed, if occasionally left a little
cold, by the sheer cleverness of Adès' music,
the brilliantly original sonorities and rhythmic
invention, the way it absorbs and spits out the
history of music.’ (Telegraph)
Opera isn’t primary for Adès. He was 33 when
he wrote The Tempest, his second opera. But his
third, Exterminating Angel, was 12 years later.
Opera, he says, should be ‘absurd in a way that
is truer than reality.’ (Read the fascinating
interview “Wagner is a fungus” here) In
operas, as in all his music, he draws on wildly
different traditions ‘at ease with the idea of
picking up any number of references and
hanging them on music all his own.’
About his Tempest
Is this the ultimate Shakespeare-to-opera
effort? There’s a fit of Adès’s strange music
with Shakespeare’s mystic plot and poetry.
‘Adès’s second opera succeeds where most
audacious and personal operas to have come
along in years.’ (NY Times). But Andrew
Clements, in the Guardian, is more guarded: ‘The
dramatic pacing sometimes falters, the comic
characters get a bit too much stage time, and
while Meredith Oakes's libretto consciously
distances itself from Shakespeare's text… it
seems to rely on a collective memory of the
original for much of its dramatic power.’ But
there are ‘moments of breathtaking beauty’.
This is continuous but also character-defining
music, with the orchestra a strong participant in
every moment and the noise level sometimes
overwhelming. Ariel’s soprano role ‘demands
considerably more screeching than singing...
When asked why he made such stratospheric
demands on Ariel, Adès answered simply
"because that's where he lives." ’ (Musical
criticism.com’s deep review of our production)
NY Metropolitan Opera, 2012, Robert LePage
production conducted by Thomas Adès.
Prospero (bar): - Simon Keenlyside, Ariel
(coloratura sop.) - Audrey Luna, Caliban
(ten.) - Alan Oke, Miranda (Mez-Sop.) - Isobel
Leonard, Ferdinand (ten.) - Toby Spence.
Listen to Act III Scene v.