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The Enchanted Island Live from the MET at An Evening at the Opera

Tuesday, 24 January 2012 , ora 9.58
 
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Saturday, 21st January, 2012, Radio Romania Music broadcasted live The Enchanted Island, straight from the Metropolitan Opera House of New York. It was an event-production, a baroque pastiche with a theme based on 'The Tempest' and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' by Shakespeare, accompanied by the music of famous baroque composers, having as a central element the text especially written for this production, in English.
In the intermission of the live transmission performed by Luminița Arvunescu, the music critic Costin Popa, who was at the Light Cinema, where the same show was transmitted, but in video, offered more details.

Luminița Arvunescu: What do you think of the show that you also have the privilege of watching?
Costin Popa: I am again in the field, in the delightful atmosphere of the cinema where the fantasy-performance 'The Enchanted Island' is broadcasted live, with HD image. The theatre is not full, but the baroque music is ostentatiously branching out its tentacles, enchanting us. It is not a word game; the 18th century sones exert a particularly special attraction in Bucharest, in New York and anywhere else in the world. Our famous mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose, who you will be able to see on Friday (27th January, 2012) at the Radio Hall, in a performance with Werther by Massenet has recently sung in Paris the Vivaldi's opera Il Farnace and confessed that she rarely felt such appetency from the public for baroque music. Three hours of singing received with the same enthusiasm as rock music, plus a highly demanded encore. Behold the powers of such a score and I think this is the reason why the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera Hous in New York, Peter Gelb, has scheduled for the current season a collage of Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcel and the less known, Andre Campra, Jean-Marie Leclair, a least in the first part, which we all listened to.
The drama imagined and written by Jeremy Sams is inspired from 'The Tempest' and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and was put in page by producer Phelim McDermott with Julian Crouch's setting, Kevin Pollard's costumes, Brian MacDevitt's lights and Graciela Daniele's choreography. I must say from the beginning that the idea of both musical and playwright collage did not inspire me. It is very difficult to associate as a unitary whole arias, duets, scenes, belonging to different titles, different compositional styles. Even though they are written in the same creational period in the history of music, it is hard to compile a theme by pasting together pages of two Shakespearean masterpieces. Actually, the music extracted from no less than 22 operas, cantatas, oratorios, anthems, and coronary hymns is put to the task of characters that have no connection to the themes of Handel, Vivaldi etc. This is where my scepticism comes from. Still, seen and listened to, the collage works, it captivates, it makes you forget the sources and compilation approach, and this happens thanks to the luxurious montage, the extravagant costumes, the extraordinary musical performance with the Met's versatile ensembles, that, behold, play romantic, modern, contemporary and baroque, having the great expert William Christie at the stand, and last but not least, thanks to the stellar distribution. Of course, an immense musical work has been done to harmonize the tonalities of the 44 numbers of which we have so far listened to 23, obviously composed without considering that in the 21st century someone would think of compiling them. Besides, the libretto was written in English and since the originals were in Italian or French, the match of the words on the stave had to be well thought out.

The Met artists' virtuosity and accuracy were obvious ever since the overture belonging to Handel's opera Alcina. William Christie worked intensely in two directions; first, the brilliant telling of the recitatives, then the dynamics of the tempos to ensure a tension proper to the performance - this of course, once the overture was over.

The delicious soprano Danielle de Niese - Ariel - sang exuberantly in the agilities executed in a vertiginous rhythm, sometimes at the limit of homogenous emission. Two enjoyable timbres have displayed the mezzo-soprano Joyce di Donato (Sycorax) and bass Luca Pisaroni (Caliban).

The excellent Joyce di Donato is an artist preoccupied with the most nuanced expressiveness, from sarcasm to sound sophistication, all in a performance of ornamental virtuoso. The arias sung by her were full of spectacular roulades, vehement accents, in an extraordinary drama.

Luca Pisaroni vocalizes exquisitely, sings with authority, but some acute sounds seem veiled. Soprano Lisette Oropesa presented herself as Miranda with delicacy and beautiful legato, with crystalline emission.

I would recall Elliot Madore debuting as Lysander, his aria revealed a very good voice, agile and strong, penetrating and sparkling. We shall hear again of Elliot Madore.

Also, a very good lyrical tenor was Paul Appleby as Demetrius.

With great interest we listened to the famous contra-tenor David Daniels (Prospero). I don't think the score of The Enchanted Island helped, at least in this first part; many recitatives, a few ariosos and just one aria, a lamento in the final act. There was also an extract from the opera Amadigi di Gaula by Handel and it was sung in a wonderful expression filled with sadness.

Finally, the great star, much awaited, applauded at the entrance, the famous Placido Domingo, who turns 71 today (21st January, 2012). Happy birthday, Maestro! The noble timbre and the warmth of his song have entwined again this time as Neptune, an auto ironic Neptune, heading towards his age. It was probably the producers' option as well as Placido Domingo's. Therefore, in the role of Neptune he had two sequences from the opera Tamerlano by Handel and Hippolyte and Aricie by Rameau where the character of the God of the seas does not even show. The lamento from Tamerlano was beautifully conducted, although Domingo's voice does not have the firm articulation that it used to; it is only natural at such an age, but also being a great tenor he cannot leave the stage and he takes any chance. Is it good, is it bad... tough decision! A spectacular stage entrance was reserved for Domingo - pure theatrical magic; on the video projections of the sea, appears an underwater cave where the God sits on a throne surrounded by half-clothed naiads, bubbles of gold fill up the golden-silvery space of the water, probably through a technical effect similar to the one from the Rhine Gold montage.

Actually, the stage setting consists of a usual abundance for the Metropolitan Opera. As I said, the costumes also are of a rare luxuriance, everything shows a lot of money was spent. It is typical for the American stage. Aside from this baroque in baroque style, as I would name it, I cannot help myself from thinking that at the great New York theatre we have also seen montages where the modern inclination is present. It is not the case of The Enchanted Island, a novel title, but let us not forget it is still a pastiche, a sequence of pieces where the dramaturgical unity does not come from one quill, and this shows.

Translated by Alexandra Ilie
MTTLC, Bucharest University