Friday, April 30, 2010

Adès' The Tempest

I used to write long essays giving advice to composers wanting to compose opera. One sentence was "Your job is to make the singers sound good." I sort of gave up because it became apparent that no one was listening. None of the singers in Thomas Adès' The Tempest sound good at all.

Review previous essays:
Composing Opera
Advice to Composers

It's a good subject for an opera but very painful to listen to. This is based on a DVD from House of Opera from the ROH production. I would describe the style as neo-second Viennese school, but entirely without Berg's lyricism.

I will repeat my most basic advice here: If you never go to the opera and don't really like singing, do not repeat DO NOT write an opera.


JPH said...

I heard it at Covent Garden and I have the recording, so I can only guess you must have been unlucky and heard a bad performance. Of course, there are some roles which explore extremes of vocal colour and range (as did Handel, Mozart and Verdi), but I found these amazingly successful - in particular, Cynthia Sieden as Ariel may not have been able to pronounce the words clearly but the sounds she made were captivating, and thrillingly accompanied by the orchestral textures.

I would have thought the lyricism in the piece was hard to miss, especially in the second half - Caliban's aria, Gonzalo's aria, the Passacaglia, the melancholy wordless soaring of Ariel once Prospero has freed her... If you haven't heard the recording, which features a wonderful cast (Keenlyside, Summers, Toby Spence, Kate Royal, Bostridge, Langridge), I hope that can change your mind.

Dr.B said...

I might have been in a bad mood that day. Maybe I should give it another try. Lots of people really like it.

Anonymous said...

If you can make it to the USC production of Lee Hoiby's TEMPEST in November you will not be disappointed.