Archive for September 2nd, 2009


by Sam Juliano

     The music in Thomas Ades’s opera The Tempest slowly creeps up on you like an increasingly windy night, when you realize before it’s too late that you haven’t dressed properly for the sudden change in weather.  It’s first act harmonic dissonances yield to soaring lyrical intensity late in the second act, and after a short prelude to Act III which showcases some of the composer’s most beautiful and atmospheric music, the hectic dramatic machinations of the Bard’s great play are informed by lustrous vocals by a cast of international renown. 

     In all fairness a listener is treated in the first act to some rhapsodic lyricism, even if the “musical language” here was purposefully discordant as a result of Prospero’s wicked summoning of the storm aimed to ensnare his enemies and to deceive Ferdinand and his shipwrecked court, while Prospero’s daughter Miranda is deeply saddened by her father’s behavior.  Ades makes a conscious artistic decision to suggest that the blossoming love of Miranda and Ferdinand surpasses even the power of Prospero.  It is through these late passages when forgiveness, reconcilliation and generosity dominate the drama, that Aides and his superb lyricist Meredith Oakes reach the heights of operatic voice interplay where world class tenor Simon Keelyside, soprano Kate Royal and tenor Toby Spence accomplish some powerful voice fusion that conveys the dramatic power of Shakespeare’s stirring character interactions.  It would  be hard to conceive of anyone not being moved by tracks 10, 11 and 12 on disc 2 of the double-CD set, where the singing and orchestration collaborate to overwhelming effect.  Ades understands where he had to let loose, and it may seem to many opera neophytes that he was in a “holding pattern” waiting for the drama to dictate when to land.  The ravishing coda may simply be explained as saving the best for last, but it’s the end result of a painstaking compositional plan where discord is conveyed by thorny and jolting music and tenderness and passion are expressed through almost Puccini-esque lyricism.  (more…)

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amadeus 1

(USA 1984/2002 180m) DVD1/2

Champion of Mediocrities

p  Saul Zaentz  d  Milos Forman  w  Peter Shaffer  play  Peter Shaffer  ph  Miroslav Ondricek  ed  Nena Danevic, Michael Chandler  m  W.A.Mozart  md  Neville Marriner  art  Patrizia Von Brandenstein  cos  Theodor Pistek

F.Murray Abraham (Antonio Salieri), Tom Hulce (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), Elizabeth Berridge (Constanze), Simon Callow (Emanuel Shikaneder), Roy Dotrice (Leopold Mozart), Jeffrey Jones (Emperor Joseph II), Christine Ebersole (Katerina Cavalieri), Charles Kay (Count Orsini-Rosenberg), Lisabeth Bartlett (Papagena), Kenny Baker (Parody Commendatore), Cassie Stewart, Vincent Schiavelli,

There have been many films made about composers that rank amongst the most kitsch and frankly risible in movie history, yet Amadeus is so far above these efforts as to be insulting it to make comparisons.  Yes, it’s a musical biopic, but it’s also a mystery, a spellbinding tale of paternal peer pressure, acceptance and conformity and the very essence of talent and genius.       

            It traces the story of Italian composer Antonio Salieri, who comes to Vienna and works his way up to be court composer, only to realise his time could be limited as a new wunderkind prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, an inherently rude and immature young man, has arrived in Vienna.  Disgusted that he is so uncouth and jealous that he has sexually deflowered the object of his affections, Salieri decides to do everything in his power to destroy the career of a man whose music he believes comes from God, and who only he is cursed to appreciate and be envious of. (more…)

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