[Note: A revised vocal score reflecting changes made for the 2008 production and recording is available for sale as Print on Demand via our Rental Library.]
PROSPERO, the rightful Duke of Milan; a magician: Bass Baritone
MIRANDA, his daughter: Soprano
ARIEL, an airy spirit of the island: Coloratura Soprano
FERDINAND, son to Alonso. the King of Naples: Lyric Baritone
CALIBAN, a savage native, Prospero's slave: Dramatic Tenor
TRINCULO, a jester: Baritone
STEPHANO, a drunken butler: Bass
ALONSO, King of Naples: Bass
GONZALO, his honest old counselor: Tenor
SEBASTIAN, his brother: Baritone
ANTONIO, the usurping Duke of Milan, Prospero's brother: Baritone
IRIS: Lyric Soprano
Twelve years ago, Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and also a great magician, was exiled with his infant daughter Miranda to a deserted island by his treacherous brother, allied with the King of Naples. Now his enemies' ships have strayed near his shore, and with the aid of Ariel, the airy spirit who serves him, Prospero has the opportunity to revenge himself. But he finally chooses forgiveness, consecrated in the wedding of Miranda and Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples.
As a furious storm abates, Miranda tells her father, Prospero, of seeing a ship caught in the storm. Prospero assures her that no harm came to the ship or to its passengers. He recalls how, twelve years ago, his brother, allied with the King of Naples, deposed him as Duke of Milan and set him adrift with Miranda on the open sea. Ariel reports that following Prospero’s orders, the storm was used to separate the King’s ship from its fleet. Ariel now requests release from servitude but Prospero angrily tells him that, as promised, freedom will be granted in due time. Following the phantom voices of Ariel and his spirits, Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, appears and he and Miranda fall instantly in love. Prospero has Ariel lead him away. Caliban rants to Prospero that the island by rights belongs to him, and that he should not be forced to labor for him. Prospero threatens severe punishments if the work is not completed. Stephano, the King’s butler, arrives carrying a jug of wine and Caliban now swears to serve Stephano in return for payment of wine. Trinculo joins them as they all stumble off drunkenly.
Alonso, the King of Naples, is grief stricken at the loss of his son, Ferdinand, as Gonzalo tries to cheer him. When all suddenly fall asleep, Sebastian and Antonio plot to kill the King so that Sebastian can replace him. They draw their swords, but are magically frozen in place. Ariel observes the scene he has conjured and then allows the spells to fade. The King decides they should move on in search of Ferdinand. Caliban convinces Stephano and Trinculo to help him kill Prospero and become rulers of the island. Ariel attempts to foil them but the prospect of having Miranda as their mistress seals the bargain. The King and his party stop to rest. Antonio and Sebastian renew their plot and Ariel appears announcing that their situation is punishment for their crime against Prospero. The King cries out in horror.
Ferdinand and Miranda exchange expressions of affection. Prospero invokes a spectacle of goddesses that blesses the union before renouncing his powers and meditating on the illusory nature of all things. Ariel, on Prospero’s orders, leads in a dazed King and his court. The King renounces claim to the dukedom and Ariel presents Miranda and Ferdinand in wedding finery. Prospero forgives those who wronged him and Ariel anticipates her liberty. A finale of joyous thanksgiving is celebrated.
Composer and Librettist note:
Substantial revisions of The Tempest
took place after the premiere in Des Moines in 1986 and the second production in Kansas City the following year. The published vocal score incorporating these changes was first produced in Dallas in 1996. It lacks the second act ballet of sprites with the appearing and disappearing banquet. Otherwise, the alterations [made for 2008] are small, meticulous and many a continuation of the post-compositional shaping and reining process. For Purchase College [2008 and as heard on the commercial recording], Ariel’s harpy aria (“You three men of sin”), to which the aforesaid ballet had been an introduction, has been trimmed considerably. In both the post-premiere changes and the new Purchase revision the second act, dominated by the minor characters, couriers and comics, is altered the most. The curtain is made less emphatic, and now the second intermission may be replaced by a pause. The villains who play a role in act two are reduced to a few good sulfurous whiffs, rather than grumbling all over the scene, and genial Gonzalo’s garrulousness has been abridged. In whole, the playing time has been reduced by about 15 percent.
A word remains about my aims and choices in the abridgement of Shakespeare’s play: I’ve simply rearranged the sequence of a few scenes to uncover a spine more unified and direct than is apparent in the play’s episodic scenography. I’ve resisted the pressure to simplify or modernize the Bard’s diction, which is not only patronizing of the audience, but would rob the composer of the very lyric inspiration which it is my whole purpose to provide him. Shakespeare lives in his actual words, not in his plots, so I’ve tried to make directly available as much of Shakespeare’s incomparable text and possible.
is, for many, one of the “problem” plays obviously profound, the last major work, but what’s it all about really? Where’s the drama if Prospero controls everything? Where’s his drama in foreknown renunciation? The climactic moment is introspective. The most attractive characters are not even human. The finale is desultory, irresolute, petering out into an apology to the audience. The clowns and the courtiers overstay their welcome and burden us with topical references. The lovers are scanted; they lack the youthful freshness of their likenesses in the earlier plays. The play’s apparent occasion, a commission for a royal betrothal, calls for dampening admonitions about premarital chastity, which the playwright delivers with disturbing sincerity. The substantial Masque was also required by the occasional nature of the commission; we are not used to seeing Shakespeare tethered to an assignment, introducing undramatic entertainments. In one way or another I grappled with each of these famous issues in my adaptation, under Geoffrey Hartman’s provocative definition: “…opera, a powerful setting for homeless visionary clichés.”
The Tempest (Act II)
The Tempest (Act III)