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The Enchanted Island

by Suzanne Yanko

If you haven’t yet experienced the award-winning series The Met: Live in HD, The Enchanted Island is a great starting point. Not only do you get a movie but also a (new) Baroque opera and the chance to revisit not just one but two of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, as four young lovers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream are shipwrecked on Prospero’s island from The Tempest and encounter its inhabitants. British director and composer Jeremy Sams devised the plot and wrote the libretto for The Enchanted Island, as well as gathering the music in company with conductor William Christie. Of course it’s a pastiche (as confessed in the opening credits) but with music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau and other masters, this is a score to please admirers of the Baroque period. As for the experience, the New York’s Metropolitan Opera won a special Emmy Award in January 2009 for its transmission of high-definition programming to movie theatres. Robotic cameras and advanced technology capture the onstage action to give moviegoers the experience of going to a live opera. Live interviews with cast and crew – before the opera, and in the interval – enhance the experience of “being there”. The host and interviewer for The Enchanted Island is Deborah Voigt, herself the star of a forthcoming Met:Live film (in the role of Brunnhilde in Wagner’s Gotterdammerung). With all that going for it, plus wonderfully imaginative sets and costumes you might expect The Enchanted Island to work. And it does. But, in my view, its greatest success comes from inspired casting, with all players fine actors as well as great singers. In the midst of all the humour as spells are cast and lovers get confused, there are some moments of truly affecting pathos and beauty. Joyce DiDonato, as the sorceress Sycorax, does a fine job as an assertive woman but is heart-rending in her protectiveness of her son, Caliban (Luca Pisaroni, in thick, ghastly make-up). David Daniels as the hard-hearted Prospero surprises with a counter-tenor voice of considerable power, while veteran Placido Domingo is a natural for Neptune, his formidable stage presence supported by an “underwater” set that would not have shamed the High Baroque. Most captivating was Australian-born Danielle de Niese as the air spirit Ariel. She is relatively new to the grand opera stage but it would be difficult to imagine anyone playing the role with more charm – and the lyric soprano voice to suit it. At three and a half hours running time The Enchanted Island is a long haul – but I can honestly say I hardly noticed the time, so caught up was I in this magical, musical world of fantasy. The New York Metropolitan Opera’s groundbreaking series of live, high-definition performance transmissions to movie theatres around the world continues to entertain Australian opera lovers at their local cinemas. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars The Enchanted Island By Jeremy Sams Screening in select cinemas 11 & 12 February, 2012 For more information: www.themetinaustralia.info

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