Sunday, March 18, 2012
Eveybody's Opera (on The Enchanted Island)
Jeremy Sams (writer and conceiver), with music by George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and numerous others. The Enchanted Island / Metropolitan Opera, New York, December 31, 2011, premiere / the production I saw was a live HD broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera of New York on January 21, 2012
Prospero (David Daniels), having taken over the "enchanted" island of the title's name, has at first loved and then abandoned Sycorax (Joyce DiDonato), a sorceress banned to the dark side of the kingdom, now furious for the results. Prospero and his daughter Miranda, having stolen away Sycorax's spirit servant, Ariel (Danielle de Niese), spend most of their days reading books filled with the formulas of potents and magic spells, attended by Caliban, Sycorax's dunder-headed and brutish son. He, she argues, using him to gain entry back into Prospero's sight, should be the inheritor of the island! Yet it is clear, Caliban has little talent to rule anything.
Indeed, as in Cosí fan tutte, it doesn't seem to matter—one by one they feel betrayed, confused by the vagaries of the heart, while Caliban cooks up his own scheme to be loved by one and all, men, women, animals, and demons from the dark.
As in Baroque opera, each figure gets his or her own say in a series of beautiful arias, some well-known, others long forgotten.
The frothy results are a delight, but would not have been so amazing without the wonderful costumes and sets of Phelim McDermott and his team (who previously put together the set and costumes for Satyagrapha). Every moment of this splendid work is underlined with their splendiferous wit.
In a post-post modern culture such as ours, it is only fitting that pastiche might come back into fashion, and if The Enchanted Island is any sign of its pleasures, bring it on. As the opera closes, even its performers seem enchanted by the experience as they joyously sing "Now a bright new day is dawning." Bringing together numerous composers, this is everybody's opera and an opera for everyone.
March 16, 2012