Opera Scotland

Tempest The Tempest

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Thomas Adés (born London, 1 March 1971)


Meredith Oakes


Play (1611) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616).



First Performance: London (Covent Garden), 10 February 2004.

First Performance in Scotland: N/A

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Thomas Adès enjoyed an immediate success with his first opera, Cover Her Face, a controversial piece, based on recent events, in the form of the notorious life of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll. A follow-up work was keenly awaited, and commissioned by Covent Garden. Its subject matter could hardly have been more different, but the reception was almost unanimously favourable. The challenging central role of Prospero provided an excellent role for Simon Keenlyside, who will repeat the part in New York. The other parts were also well written - even if the astonishingly high-lying lines for Ariel were difficult to interpret, unless perhaps by a passing bat.


Main Characters

Prospero, exiled Duke of Milan (baritone)

Miranda, his daughter (mezzo-soprano)

Ariel (high soprano)

Caliban (tenor)

Alonso, King of Naples (tenor)

Ferdinand, his son (tenor)

Gonzalo, a counsellor (bass)

Antonio, Prospero's brother (tenor)

Sebastian, Alonso's brother (baritone)


Plot Summary

Some years earlier, Prospero, devoted to study and neglectful of statecraft, had been the victim of a conspiracy between his brother Antonio and the King of Naples. Deposed in a coup, he was set adrift in a boat with his only child, a baby daughter, Miranda. Gonzalo, his adviser, was able to give him some of the most treasured books from his library. They were washed ashore on an island governed by a sorceress Sycorax and her son, Caliban. Prospero defeats her, enslaves Caliban, and releases Ariel, a spirit Sycorax had kept imprisoned in a tree. As the story opens, Prospero has spent years perfecting his magical powers and raising and educating his daughter. He is now ready to bring about his revenge against Antonio and Alonso.

Prospero is aware of the journey of his enemies and their party to Tunis, where Alonso's daughter is married. On the return journey, as the result of a storm conjured up by Prospero, they are shipwrecked on his island. Ariel is instructed to ensure that all survive unharmed, but that Alonso's son, Ferdinand is separated and believed drowned. The ship and its crew are likewise unharmed, concealed until the end of the play. Ferdinand, believing himself the sole survivor, meets Miranda, and they fall in love, supervised by her father. Alonso survives an attempt on his life by Antonio and Sebastian, while Caliban is foiled in his attempt to kill Prospero. The supposed loss of Ferdinand brings about a reformation in Alonso's character, and Prospero at last brings about a general reconcilation. They return to the mainland, with Prospero restored to power and Ferdinand and Miranda united. Before his departure from the island, Prospero releases Ariel from his serfdom and destroys the tools of his magical powers. Caliban is left alone.

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