The Enchanted Island [180:00]
Layla Claire (soprano) - Helena; Lisette Oropesa (soprano) - Miranda; Danielle de Niese (coloratura soprano) - Ariel; Luca Pisaroni (bass-baritone) - Caliban; David Daniels (counter-tenor) - Prospero; Joyce DiDonato (mezzo) - Sycorax; Placido Domingo (tenor) - Neptune; Elizabeth Deshong (mezzo) - Hermia, Anthony Roth Costanzo (counter-tenor) - Ferdinand; Paul Appleby (tenor) - Demetrius, Elliot Madore (baritone) - Lysander
Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/William Christie
rec. Metropolitan Opera House performances from 31 January 2011.
Sound Format: LPCM Stereo / DTS 5.1 surround
Picture Format: 16:9
DVD Format: NTSC
Subtitle Languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Region: 0 (region free)
Full contents listed at end of review
VIRGIN CLASSICS 4042499 DVD [98:00 + 82:00]
Among recent new stage works, Jeremy Sams’ The Enchanted Island is unique as a pastiche, that rare kind of work which appears from time to time to present familiar music re-purposed for a new libretto. While some pastiches involve music by a single composer, as is the case with the nineteenth-century Ivanhoe based on Rossini, other works in the genre can make use of music by multiple composers. The results are works that allow performers to take advantage of existing music in order to showcase their talents.
As to The Enchancted Island the libretto itself is a pastiche based on two plays by William Shakespeare, The Tempest (the Enchanted Island of the title) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream which Sams used to fashion a new story about love, delusion and justice. The narrative reworks the plot of The Tempest, which is complicated by the shipwreck of two couples who wed at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Hermia and Lysander and Helena, and Demetrius. Sycorax, the witch whose name occurs in The Tempest but who never appears on stage, also appears. As with any stock-in-trade Baroque opera requiring a deity ex machine, Neptune appears to lend his powers to resolving the drama; in this case taken by Placido Domingo.
Sams drew on over forty works. While the booklet indicates three composers at the core of this pastiche, Handel, Vivaldi, and Rameau, there are others, with music by Purcell, Campra, Leclair, Ferrandini and Rebel also in the score of The Enchanted Island. Those interested in this aspect of The Enchanted Island may find it helpful to consult the Met’s online page with the full list of numbers and their sources. Those familiar with the sources may find that some of the pastiche numbers work well. That’s certainly the case with the transformation of Endless pleasure, endless love from Handel’s Semele into Days of pleasure, nights of love in The Enchanted Island to make it seem as if the two ensembles are almost interchangeable.
Other pieces are difficult to hear in pastiche without thinking about their original identity, as with Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok, the priest as Neptune, the great. This problem arises when pastiches use familiar sources, since it is difficult not to hear the original versions in new contexts, no matter how well done. Other pieces do not seem as adaptable, with Away, ye tempt me both in vain from Handel’s Susannah as the ensemble Away, away! Ye loathsome wretch, away in which the dramaturgy seems more suited to a number from Gilbert and Sullivan. The differences arise, in part, from setting the text in English. This cannot always suit the originals since they come from works in Italian or French. The effort is valiant, and this points to the efficacy of the set of subtitles in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.
Yet the musical element is not the only element of pastiche. The sets use the expected trappings. A clever part of this opera is the scene near the end of the first act, where the set presents members of Neptune’s court as illustrations from an eighteenth-century opera. Instead of re-creating the costumes to evoke the original, the faces are cutouts with members of the Met’s chorus standing behind the prop to lend their own faces to the scene. It is an effective detail and also serves to reinforce the pastiche aspect.
The performance aspect of The Enchanted Island is prominent, with some of the finest Baroque opera singers involved. As Sams states in his notes included in the DVD’s booklet, this pastiche is an opportunity for these performers to sing music in which they excel. A case in point is David Daniels, who gives Chaos, confusion, the Finale of Act one all the expressiveness he would bring to Pena tiranno from Handel’s Amadigi. Daniels’ interpretation is particularly effective, with the line having the optimal length, phrased with the consummate art this performer brings to such music. Chi’io parta? from Handel’s Partenope is likewise effective in capturing the emotion of the climactic number Lady, this island is yours, as Prospero cedes dominion to Sycorax. Sycorax, portrayed by Joyce DiDonato, is an engaging character and her music is also effective, particularly in the second-act number Hearts that love can all be broken, based on Ferrandini’s Giunta l’ora fatal / Sventurati i miei sospiri from the cantata Il pianto di Maria (attributed to Handel as HWV 234). Along with Daniels and DiDonato, Danielle de Niese brings the character of Ariel to life with fine acting and singing. Among the numbers assigned her, de Niese brings success to each, especially the one in which she finally takes leave of Prospero and the island, Can you feel the heavens are reeling, based on Agitata da due venti from Vivaldi’s Griselda. Here de Niese caps the moment with musical and dramatic panache. Luca Pisaroni’s Caliban has all the roughness and rage appropriate to his character, with fitting music, as found in the rage aria from Handel’s Resurrezione, O voi, dell’Erebo here cast as Stolen by treachery (act 1) and elsewhere in this opera.
In addition, the DVD includes performances by Lisette Oropesa, Layla Claire, Elliot Madore, and Anthony Roth Costanzo. The entire opera merits attention for exemplary efforts all around, including the excellent leadership William Christie lends the score as conductor. Through Christie the music of various composers becomes a cohesive whole, with the stylistic divergences mediated with the deftness this seasoned Baroque opera exponent. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, which has served well in recent years in performances of Handel’s operas, is solid and reliable, with good balance and appropriate articulation. Its command of the idiom is elegant and the performance is also supported by the Met’s fine chorus. The Finale, an adaptation of the familiar Hallelujah from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus is all the more fitting a conclusion to this work through the talents of the Met’s chorus. All in all, this should delight.
James L Zychowicz
All in all, this should delight.
Full Contents List
(taken from Met website and not compared against DVD)
George Frideric Handel: Alcina, HWV 34
1. "My Ariel" (Prospero, Ariel) - "Ah, if you would earn your freedom" (Prospero)
Antonio Vivaldi: Cessate, omai cessate, cantata, RV 684, "Ah, ch’infelice sempre"
2. "My master, generous master - I can conjure you fire" (Ariel)
Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, oratorio, HWV 46a, Part I, "Un pensiero nemico di pace"
3. "Then what I desire" (Prospero, Ariel)
4. "There are times when the dark side - Maybe soon, maybe now" (Sycorax, Caliban)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act V, Scene 1, "Morirò, ma vendicata"
5. "The blood of a dragon - Stolen by treachery" (Caliban)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, Part I, Scene 1, "O voi, dell’Erebo"
6. "Miranda! My Miranda!" (Prospero, Miranda) - "I have no words for this feeling" (Miranda)
Handel: Notte placida e cheta, cantata, HWV 142, "Che non si dà"
7. "My master’s books" - "Take salt and stones" (Ariel)
Based on Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Deuxième entrée: La Musique, Scene 7, "Aimez, aimez d’une ardeur mutuelle"
8. Quartet: "Days of pleasure, nights of love" (Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Semele, HWV 58, Act I, Scene 4, "Endless pleasure, endless love"
9. The Storm (chorus)
André Campra: Idoménée, Act II, Scene 1, "O Dieux! O justes Dieux!"
10. "I’ve done as you commanded" (Ariel, Prospero)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, "Di rabbia indarno freme"
11. "Oh, Helena, my Helen - You would have loved this island" (Demetrius)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, Part I, Scene 2, "Così la tortorella"
12. "Would that it could last forever - Wonderful, wonderful" (Miranda, Demetrius)
Handel: Ariodante, HWV 33, Act I, Scene 5, "Prendi, prendi"
13. "Why am I living?" (Helena)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act II, Scene 1, "Dolce riposo")
"The gods of good and evil - At last everything is prepared" (Sycorax)
Jean-Marie Leclair: Scylla et Glaucus, Act IV, Scene 4, "Et toi, dont les embrasements… Noires divinités"
14. "Mother, why not? - Mother, my blood is freezing" (Caliban)
Vivaldi: Il Farnace, RV 711, Act II, Scene 5 & 6, "Gelido in ogni vena"
15. "Help me out of this nightmare" - Quintet: "Wonderful, wonderful" (Helena, Sycorax, Caliban, Miranda, Demetrius)
Handel: Ariodante, HWV 33, Act I, Scene 5, recitative preceding "Prendi, prendi"
16. "Welcome Ferdinand - Wonderful, wonderful," reprise (Prospero, Miranda, Demetrius)
"All I’ve done is try to help you" (Prospero)
Vivaldi: Longe mala, umbrae, terrores, motet, RV 629, "Longe mala, umbrae, terrores"
17. "Curse you, Neptune" (Lysander)
Vivaldi: Griselda, RV 718, Act III, Scene 6, "Dopo un’orrida procella"
18. "Your bride, sir? "(Ariel, Lysander, Demetrius, Miranda) - Trio: "Away, away! You loathsome wretch, away!" (Miranda, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Susanna, oratorio, HWV 66, Part II, "Away, ye tempt me both in vain"
19. "Two castaways - Arise! Arise, great Neptune" (Ariel)
Attr. Henry Purcell: The Tempest, or, The Enchanted Island, Z. 631, Act II, no. 3, "Arise, ye subterranean winds"
20. "This is convolvulus" (Helena, Caliban) - "If the air should hum with noises" (Caliban)
Handel: Deidamia, HWV 42, Act II, Scene 4, "Nel riposo e nel contento"
21. "Neptune the Great" (Chorus)
Handel: Four Coronation Anthems, HWV 258, "Zadok the priest"
22. Who dares to call me? (Neptune, Ariel)
Based on Handel: Tamerlano, HWV 18, "Oh, per me lieto"
"I’d forgotten that I was Lord" (Neptune, Chorus)
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie, Act II, Scene 3, "Qu’a server mon courroux"
23. "We like to wrestle destiny - Chaos, confusion" (Prospero)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act II, Scene 5, "Pena tiranna"
24. "My God, what’s this? - Where are you now?" (Hermia)
Handel: Hercules, oratorio, HWV 60, Act III, Scene 3, "Where shall I fly?"
25. "So sweet, laughing together - My strength is coming back to me" (Sycorax)
Vivaldi: Argippo, RV 697, Act I, Scene 1, "Se lento ancora il fulmine"
26. "Have you seen a young lady?" (Ariel, Demetrius, Helena, Caliban) - "A voice, a face, a figure half-remembered" (Helena)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act III, Scene 4, "Hanno penetrato i detti tuoi l’inferno"
27. "His name, she spoke his name" (Caliban)
Handel: Hercules, oratorio, HWV 60, Act III, Scene 2 "O Jove, what land is this? - I rage"
28. "Oh, my darling, my sister - Men are fickle" (Helena, Hermia)
Handel: Atalanta, HWV 35, Act II, Scene 3 - "Amarilli? - O dei!"
29. "I knew the spell" (Sycorax, Caliban) - "Hearts that love can all be broken" (Sycorax)
Giovanni Battista Ferrandini (attr. Handel): Il pianto di Maria, cantata, HWV 234, "Giunta l’ora fatal -Sventurati i miei sospiri"
30. "Such meager consolation - No, I’ll have no consolation" (Caliban)
Vivaldi: Bajazet, RV 703, Act III, Scene 7, "Verrò, crudel spietato"
31. Masque of the Wealth of all the World
a. Quartet: Caliban goes into his dream, "Wealth and love can be thine"
Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Act III, Scene 7, "Tendre amour"
Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Troisième entrée: Les Dances, Scene 7, Tambourin en rondeau
c. The Women and the Unicorn
Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Troisième entrée: Les Dances, Scene 7, Musette
d. The Animals
Jean-Féry Rebel: Les Éléments, Act I, Tambourins I & II
e. The Freaks - Chaos
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie, Act I, Tonnerre
Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Act III, Scene 7, "Tendre amour," reprise
[there is no No. 32]
33. "With no sail and no rudder - Gliding onwards" (Ferdinand)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act II, Scene 1, "Io ramingo - Sussurrate, onde vezzose"
34. Sextet: "Follow hither, thither, follow me" (Ariel, Miranda, Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, oratorio, HWV 46a, Part II, Quartet: "Voglio tempo"
35. "Sleep now" (Ariel)
Vivaldi: Tito Manlio, RV 78, Act III, Scene 1, "Sonno, se pur sei sonno"
36. "Darling, it’s you at last" (Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, Helena)
Vivaldi: La verità in cimento, RV 739, Act II, scene 9, "Anima mia, mio ben"
37. "The wat’ry God has heard the island’s pleas" (Chorus)
Handel: Susanna, oratorio, HWV 66, Part III, "Impartial Heav’n!"
38. "Sir, honored sir - I have dreamed you" (Ferdinand, Miranda)
Handel: Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi, cantata, HWV 197, "Ma se l’alma sempre geme"
39. "The time has come. The time is now" ("Maybe soon, maybe now," reprise) (Sycorax)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act V, Scene 1, "Morirò, ma vendicata"
40. "Enough! How dare you?" (Prospero, Neptune) - "You stand there proud and free - You have stolen the land" (Neptune)
Rameau: Castor et Pollux, Act V, Scene 1, "Castor revoit le jour"
41. "Lady, this island is yours" (Prospero, Caliban, Ariel) - "Forgive me, please forgive me" (Prospero)
Handel: Partenope, HWV 27, Act III, Scene 4, "Ch’io parta?"
42. "We gods who watch the ways of man" (Neptune, Sycorax, Chorus)
Handel: L’allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, HWV 55, Part I, "Come, but keep thy wonted state - Join with thee"
43. "This my hope for the future" (Prospero) - "Can you feel the heavens are reeling" (Ariel)
Vivaldi: Griselda, RV 718, Act II, scene 2, "Agitata da due venti"
44. "Now a bright new day is dawning" (Ensemble)
Handel: Judas Maccabaeus, oratorio, HWV 63, Part III, "Hallelujah"
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