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The Enchanted Island (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live 2011)
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"A Showcase for and a love letter to a century of amazing music" is how the creator of The Enchanted Island, Jeremy Sams, described this spectacular operatic pasticcio of music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell and others. Premiered at the Metropolitan in New York on New Year's Eve 2011, it stars Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, Danielle de Niese and Placido Domingo, and is conducted by William Christie.
With a story based on Shakespear's The Tempest and a Midsummer Night's Dream, it was not the work of a contemporary composer, but instead, drew on works by figures of the Baroque era Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell, Campra, Ferrandini, Leclair and Rebel. Devised by the British writer, librettist and translator, Jeremy Sams, the piece revived the 18th century tradition of the plasticcio, taking arias from a variety of different sources and setting them to a new libretto.
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The opera takes the plots of Shakespeare's Tempest and the lovers of A Midsummer Night's Dream and conflates them into a rollicking story of shipwreck, mistaken identities, revenge, longing, and finally reconciliation and love. DiDonato's Sycorax is a tour de force, ripping off revenge arias and playing them to the hilt, but with impeccable musciality. If you're a fan of DiDonato, this is a must have. Danielle Di Niesse was a discovery for me in the role of Ariel--her beautiful soprano fills the stage with electricity, and she plays both the serious and comic sides of the magical sprite perfectly. Placido Domingo plays Neptune, the sea God, in a great small role. The rest of the cast is pitch-perfect and strongly cast. It IS a bit long, but with a cast this great, that hardly registers. The role of Prospero is also sung by a countertenor, which is a rarity (since Baroque operas, which use them the most, are rarely seen), but last year's Met season gave us two big countertenor showpieces (here and in Rodelinda, with Renee Fleming, also on DVD).
This is a magical production that is definitely worth its space on your Opera Shelf. I didn't notice any problems with picture or sound with it being on DVD; it was very clear in both respects. (I guess, OK, Blu-Ray would have made it EVEN BETTER...but I really wanted to have this. And I have patience problems. :) )
To my awareness, this MetOpera production of "The Enchanted Island" is a one-of-a-kind production and well worth having on DVD for your on-going enjoyment.
The DVD almost fully captures the experience of being there. The video framing is first-rate. For those who have not seen this wonderful "pastiche", be ready for a treat. The singing is superb, the conducting by the great baroque specialist, William Christie, is spot-on. The old-style, cut-out sets, enhanced by lighting make a far, far better impact than the recent Met Ring. The choice of music is excellent. There is plenty of melody and a lot of fun (both for cast and audience).
Both films are very enjoyable. Buy them if you can find them.
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