Opera In Three Acts
Commissioned by the Royal Opera House
3(II & III=picc.).3 (III=ca).3 (I&II=Bb, III in A=bcl).3 (III=cbsn) - 4.3.3 (III=btrbn).1 - timp - perc (2 or 3) - upright pno - harp (act 3 only) - strings (some basses with extensions to B)
Prospero: high baritone, Ariel: high soprano, Caliban: tenor, Miranda: mezzo-soprano, Ferdinand: tenor, King: tenor, Antonio: tenor, Stefano: bass-baritone, Trinculo: counter-tenor, Sebastian: baritone, Gonzalo: bass-baritone, Court: SATB chorus
The opera The Tempest is inspired by Shakespeare’s play, rather than literally being based on every aspect of it. There are key images from the play as well as new material. From among the play’s many themes and possible interpretations, the opera focusses on the difficulty, and the necessity, of mercy. The libretto uses contemporary vocabulary. Its lines are short, rhythmic and rhymed or semi-rhymed, echoing Shakespeare’s strophic songs more than his blank verse. This choice reflects the play’s magical, ritual, childlike elements, and acknowledges the traditional power of incantation in song. The operatic Prospero is the passionately vengeful man seen in the play, more than the wise disconnected actor also seen there. Despite his near-omnipotence, he finds things out as he goes along, and experiences contradictory emotions to the end.