Even my non-opera-loving friends were enchanted by "The Enchanted Island" shown opening night of The Metropolitan Opera's Summer HD Festival, outdoors on the Lincoln Center Plaza. This is our third viewing of this dazzling work and we are just as enchanted as we were the first two times when we saw/heard it live. What was different this time was the contribution of HD Director Barbara Willis Sweete who did a superlative job of finding just the right camera angle and field of view to enhance the viewing experience. When the action called for intimacy, the camera was right in there focusing on the duo, as in the poignant scene where Sycorax comforts her bereft son Caliban. All of the magic was visible to the entire audience, not just to those at the front of the orchestra. When one was curious about a character's reaction, there was the camera. There are cases when a good HD director can make up for the flaws of the stage director. There are rare cases when a poor HD director undermines good stage direction. And finally, there are cases where the HD director compliments and enhances the work of the stage director. Such was the case last night. The gods and goddesses onstage brought magic into the lives of the audience in a brilliant replication of the magic of the story in which the immortals wrought their magic on the mortal characters.
Below we will reprint our original review.
Sometimes the Met gets it right. Righter than The Enchanted Island
one cannot get. A perfect entertainment for New Year’s Eve, this
Phelim McDermott production left the festively attired audience in a
state of joy and good humor. Much credit goes to Jeremy Sams who
devised the mash-up of music of the Baroque period and wrote the
libretto, also a mash-up of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Midsummer’s Night Dream.
As a fine chef does, Mr. Sams balanced his ingredients with the best
of taste and plated everything to tempt--with significant input from set
designer Julian Crouch, costume designer Kevin Pollard, lighting
designer Brian MacDevitt, choreographer Graciela Daniele, and
projections by 59 Productions. This was a true feast for the eye and
this is a work of intense scholarship, fitting arias and ensembles from
various composers and tailoring the storytelling, the audience member
does not need to consider this; one can just sit back and enjoy oneself.
The stagecraft is noteworthy and the music is “note” worthy. The
singing is glorious and the program notes indicate that many of the
arias were chosen by the singers themselves. More credit to them!
Countertenor David Daniels portrays Prospero, exiled Duke of Milan,
living on an island with his daughter Miranda, charmingly sung by
soprano Lisette Oropesa; the delightful spirit Ariel brought to lyric
life by soprano Danielle de Niese; the lumbering Caliban effectively
sung by bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni; and the sorceress Sycorax (a
powerful Joyce DiDonato) seduced and abandoned years earlier by
Prospero. (She is supposed to be Caliban’s mother but we never learn if
Prospero is the father.) Prospero has the young Prince Ferdinand lined
up as a husband for Miranda but Ariel bungles the magic and instead the
two newly wed couples from Midsummer’s Night Dream show up. The scene of the shipwreck alone is worth the cost of the ticket!
amazing young singers handled these roles with great aplomb. Gorgeous
soprano Layla Claire sang Helena, the gifted tenor Paul Appleby sang
Demetrius, and baritone Elliot Madore made an impressive Met debut as
Lysander--all three from the Lindemann program. Mezzo Elizabeth DeShong
was a fine Hermia. The audience must wait until the second act for the
brilliant countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo to appear as Prince
Ferdinand; he was worth waiting for. Let it be noted that everyone
handled the fioritura
beautifully and that the diction was superb. The libretto is written
with a great understanding of vocal line and emphasis and makes use of
the unique properties of the English language. This is rare in
contemporary vocal writing so let us give part credit to the lyricism of
the musical language that inspired the libretto.
orchestra played beautifully for conductor William Christie whether
they were playing Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell, or some of the
lesser known contributors to the pastiche. Lest we complete this report
without a single quibble, we throw this into the pot. The role of
Neptune was given to our beloved Placido Domingo who sadly came across
as unsure of himself and a bit ragged of voice. One wonders if this
role would be better suited to a bass.
countless delights of this production (don’t get me started on the
fantastic projections!) are too rich to enumerate but don’t say I didn’t
warn you to beg, borrow or steal a ticket. I myself am returning for a
second viewing. Too bad that The Ring Cycle was not given to this
production team. I would happily vote for scrapping The Beast and doing
© meche kroop