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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Hugill    INVOLVING AND MAGICAL

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Ariel, played by soprano Cyndia Sieden wearing very striking black and acid yellow costume, makeup and hair, sang almost exclusively in stratospheric coloratura. Sieden must be the evening's heroine, making this startling part sound natural for Ariel. After a time, though, I did start to find Ariel's music became a little tiring on the ears, goodness knows how it felt to Cyndia Sieden.

Cyndia Sieden as Ariel in 'The Tempest'. © 2004 Clive Barda
Cyndia Sieden as Ariel in 'The Tempest'. © 2004 Clive Barda

Casting Ian Bostridge as an etherial, otherworldly Caliban meant that, compared to his two creatures (Ariel and Caliban) Prospero was vocally very much earth bound. Bostridge was a commanding presence, very much the fallen prince brandishing his crown, after all Caliban is the son of Sycorax the previous ruler of the island. Whilst we gained a sense of Caliban's non-humanness, we lost much sense of him as a gross, repulsive creature. As with Keenlyside, Bostridge has a fine sense of language and Meredith Oakes' text was declaimed magnificently.

Simon Keenlyside as Prospero (left) and Ian Bostridge as Caliban. © 2004 Clive Barda
Simon Keenlyside as Prospero (left) and Ian Bostridge as Caliban. © 2004 Clive Barda

Oakes, wife of the opera critic Tom Sutcliffe and librettist of Gerald Barry's The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, has a clear idea of what is required of an opera libretto and has presented Adès with a dramatically effective filleting of Shakespeare's play; keeping its essence whilst losing a lot of the verbiage which would weigh the music down. Where the libretto is more controversial is in its use of rhyming couplets. You were always slightly aware of the rhyming, particularly when Oakes resorted to false or half rhymes -- I would have wished she had used blank verse.

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Copyright © 19 February 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK

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