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Opera Preview: The Enchanted Island

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
The Met unveils its first pastiche.

Opera Preview: The Enchanted Island

Wands at 20 paces: David Daniels (Prospero) and Joyce DiDonato (Sycorax)
square off in The Enchanted Island. Photo by Nick Heavican © 2011 The Metropolitan Opera.

The copy on the Met website promises that by attending a performance of The Enchanted Island, the audience will "have it all." Whatever that means, this new work (constructed by Jeremy Sams) incorporates music by Handel, Vivaldi, and Rameau to create a speculative "prequel" to Shakespeare's The Tempest.
The intent of The Enchanted Island is a noble one, to bring back the baroque concept of creating new works for the entertainment of the audience out of the pieces of old ones. The pastiche technique was usually reserved for when a theater had to hurriedly slap together a new work to meet the demands of their audience.
Alternately a singer's health, a cast substitution or some technical issue could force an impresario to cut-and-paste an opera together. But when one considers that the Met has spent (comparatively) little time exploring the vast repertory of the 18th century, one questions the reasoning behind this enterprise. After all, there are so many marvelous operas to choose from.
Mr. Sams' libretto is a prequel, into the back-story of Sycorax (Caliban's mother), and what happened on that unknown island when Prospero first showed up. Joyce DiDonato and super-countertenor David Daniels will do vocal battle as Sycorax and Prospero. Star power is added with a cast featuring soprano Danielle de Niese and some guy named Plácido Domingo, who is scheduled to make deus ex machina appearance as the sea god Neptune.
The merits of playing Dr. Frankenstein and creating a new work from parts of other operas by multiple composers should be a subject for heated debate in the weeks leading up to the premiere on New Years' Eve. Baroque specialist William Christie will conduct. Hopefully, he will provide the electric spark to this creation to life.

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