One of the most highly anticipated events of the New York cultural season—The Tempest by British composer Thomas Adès—blows onto the stage of the Metropolitan Opera this week. The work, based on the Shakespeare play about betrayal, retribution, and the redeeming power of love, had its premiere in 2004 at London’s Royal Opera House and garnered for the 32-year-old Adès critical acclaim and popular success. Since then, the contemporary work has made a strong bid for a place in the operatic repertoire, and after productions in Germany and the American premiere by the Santa Fe Opera, The Tempest arrives in New York, in a staging by Robert Lepage.
The director has moved the opera to the 18th century and conjures on Prospero’s island (and the Met’s stage) a reimagined—and dazzling—La Scala, the opera house in Milan, as a background for the plot. Magical? Yes, and a production that is operatic in every sense. The compelling baritone Simon Keenlyside, who originated the role of Prospero, leads a superb cast of American and British singers, and Adès himself conducts (performances run through November 17).
The Tempest is one of seven new productions at the Met this season that range from Baroque opera—Giulio Cesare, Handel’s music drama about Julius Caesar and Cleopatra—to works by the two giants of the 19th century: Richard Wagner (Parsifal) and Giuseppe Verdi (Rigoletto), whose 200th anniversaries will be celebrated far and wide in 2013. First up and opening in January: Verdi’s Rigoletto, a timeless tale of greed, lust, power, and murder, originally set in 16th-century Mantua—placed afresh by director Michael Mayer in an alluring and lurid setting: Las Vegas in 1960.
Mario R. Mercado is arts editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of Ken Howard / Courtesy of Metropolitan Opera