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Tempest: Metropolitan Opera (Ad S) [DVD] 
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The Metropolitan Opera give a live performance of Thomas Adès' work based on William Shakespeare's play. Adès also conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra with Simon Keenlyside as the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero, Isabel Leonard as his daughter, Miranda, Audrey Luna as the spirt, Ariel, and Alan Oke as the villainous slave, Caliban.
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The setting is modernist, do not think Shakespearian setting, but it does not come amiss, and the various costumes are pretty good.
The music is dramatic, narrative in style, interesting orchestrations. Do not expect any arias, memorable or otherwise.
Audrey Luna is Ariel, we are introduced to her first. Her voice is above the air of which she is comprised, A lot of her sounds are not exactly pretty, nor are they meant to be, but they invoke the character. I am surprised she has any voice left at the end. Just a note here, if you want the words I suggest you use the subtitles. Consonants do not come easily at this register.
Isabel Leonard is a richly toned mezzo and acts her part nicely, she is a very attractive Miranda. It is not surprising that Alek Shrader as Ferdinand falls for her. He has a melodic voice and the score enables him to use to the full.
Prospero, by Simon Keenlyside is finely acted and sung, a watch-able performance with a strange line in costumes, even for a magician.
Perhaps the star of the show should be Alan Oke, a fine tenor voice for a rather unpleasant character ( I was cast in the Shakespearian role in a school play, loved him ever since)
In act 2 we are introduced to Kevin Burdette and Iestyn Davies, who make a good double act as base and counter tenor.
Before act 3 I will mention the Lepage staging, it varies from the bland to inspired as in the forest, to rather strange in act 3. The booklet explains his concept, which is themed. It is definitely needed.
Act three gives the 4 main protagonists their opportunity, Toby Spence, Christopher Feigum, John De Carlo and William Burden are all well cast.Read more ›
Adès manages to integrate all the rich elements of Shakespeare's work wonderfully, not just accompanying the various strands of comedy, drama and romance that are rather compressed in the dramatic playing, but making up for the lack of poetry in the libretto by deepening the sentiments through the musical dimension. It's not always the most melodic of arrangements, but it's wholly appropriate to the context of the scenes, never discordant and often quite beautiful in its symphonic sweep. The most difficult element - from the point of view of composition, from the nature of the singing challenges and from the assault on the ears of the listener - is however the tricky characterisation of Ariel. It's necessary that Ariel appear to be a spirit creature from another, higher dimension, and Adès expresses the pain of his captivity in the highest extremes of the soprano range. It is by no means easy on the ear or even entirely intelligible, but it does have an otherworldly quality.
That however is just the most extreme example.Read more ›