Give Now

Saturday Opera Preview: Adès’ The Tempest

English composer Thomas Adés' opera is a characteristically imaginative setting of Shakespeare's play.

On stage, a tattooed man holds a wand over a shadowy pool of simulated water

Photo: Royal Opera

Simon Keenlyside as Prospero in the Royal Opera House production of The Tempest.

Event Information

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of Adès' "The Tempest"

On Air

Saturday, December 29, 1-3:40 pm

Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a play full of dramatic possibilities  eminently suited to opera. Magic, family, and intrigue between master and servant are the stuff of many stage works, but no full operatic setting of The Tempest has become part of the repertory. Thomas Adès’s 2004 opera makes a strong case, with complex and challenging music that propels the storytelling.

The libretto was crafted by Australian playwright Meredith Oakes. Rather than abbreviate Shakespere’s play and set his words to music, Oakes adapted the text, turning much of it into rhyming couplets and modernizing the language. Still, as is often the case with opera in any language, it remains difficult to discern what is being said.

The composer conducts this broadcast, which was recorded when the opera premiered at the Met in fall of 2012. Baritone Simon Keenlyside originated the role of Prospero and sings with commanding intensity. Adès’ Ariel is a wild, jumpy creature, demanding the utmost in vocal precision from the soprano. While Act I contains the dissonance one might expect in a twenty-first century work, there are also instances of sublime lyricism, such as Miranda and Ferdinand’s Act III duet, “My Lover Smiling.”

The opera overall takes some liberties with Shakespeare’s plot, particularly with respect to the role of Prospero as a shaper of events. Oakes portrays the magician-duke as a man who loses power over the course of the opera, even as he endeavors to control the lives of those closest to him. In this production, Prospero is cast as not only a sorcerer, but an aspiring opera impresario who has recreated on his island the Milanese opera house La Scala. Though radio listeners will not see the visual conceits of this choice, director Robert Lepage (who also directs the Met’s infamous “machine” Ring Cycle) uses the idea to give Prospero more tools of manipulation.

Adès’ opera has enjoyed remarkable staying power for a contemporary work, having been produced four different times in the eight years since its premiere. Reviews have consistently offered a mix of admiration for the composer’s bold musical choices, and criticism of various production elements. This radio broadcast is an excellent opportunity to hear The Tempest and see if its magic has any hold on you.

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Classical Music Stories

Classical Music Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Harmonia Early Music

Down On The Farm


We’re throwing open the barn doors with music inspired by sheep, cats, chickens—even the frogs down by the creek.

Read more »

Harmonia Early Music is a nationally syndicated weekly early music radio program, podcast and blog produced by WFIU Public Radio.

More from Harmonia »

This Week on Poets Weave

Photograph: Father And Grandfather Fishing The Pier…

fishing for perch

O'Neill reads "Anniversary Poem for Ann," "Tectonic of Love," "Photograph: Father and Grandfather Fishing the Pier at Michigan City, and "One Month After."

Read more »

The Poets Weave is a weekly five-minute program of poetry reading hosted by local poet Christopher Citro.

More from The Poets Weave »

This Week on Earth Eats

Christine Tailer’s DIY Country Life

erecting wind power tower

At Straight Creek Valley Farm, living "off-the-grid" doesn't mean doing without creature comforts like cell phones and Keurig coffee.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers

My Dear Magnolia Virginiana

magnolia virginiana

Sweetbay Magnolia flowers have a citrusy fragrance that makes me want to sniff them whenever I am nearby.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »