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<<  -- 4 --  Robert Hugill    INVOLVING AND MAGICAL

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In Act 3, the feast scene provided both aural and visual magic as Prospero first seduces and then punishes the courtiers with his visions. Though the mystical element is rather missing from his character here, Adès paints Prospero as a wonderfully vengeful mage. And as this Act developed, a sense of the island's magic developed also; both in the wonderful designs and as the ear become attuned to Adès' magic in the orchestra.

The drama is resolved in a powerful ensemble over a sort of ground bass, a lovely piece of musical felicity. But not everything is resolved, and the opera concludes without an resolution of the tension between Prospero and his brother. Finally the humans depart. Prospero has freed Ariel, leaving him now completely wordless and the opera concludes with Caliban contemplating his domain to the sound of Ariel's acrobatic vocalises.

Simon Keenlyside as Prospero and Cyndia Sieden as Ariel in the Covent Garden première of 'The Tempest'. © 2004 Clive Barda
Simon Keenlyside as Prospero and Cyndia Sieden as Ariel in the Covent Garden première of 'The Tempest'. © 2004 Clive Barda

The night that we were there (Saturday 14 February 2004) the audience gave the opera a (well-deserved) tremendous reception. The Royal Opera had assembled a truly amazing cast of British singing actors (with Zazzo as just one American guest) who had done Adès and Oakes' vision proud. The production is being taken to Copenhagen and Strasbourg and it will be interesting to see how the opera develops as different casts take possession of and develop the musical character of the piece.

Cyndia Sieden as Ariel and Ian Bostridge as Caliban in the world première of 'The Tempest' by Thomas Adès at Covent Garden. © 2004 Clive Barda
Cyndia Sieden as Ariel and Ian Bostridge as Caliban in the world première of 'The Tempest' by Thomas Adès at Covent Garden. © 2004 Clive Barda

The Tempest is perhaps not the towering masterpiece that everyone was hoping for, but then Adès probably did not want to even attempt to deliver the kind of piece that other people were expecting. What he has delivered is a powerful and solid opera, beautifully attuned to the expectations of its audience, challenging but never going too far, involving and magical. I just hope we don't have to wait ten years for his next opera.

Copyright © 19 February 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK

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THE ROYAL OPERA, COVENT GARDEN

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