Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Concert: Thomas Adès - The Tempest

Last Saturday I attended Thomas Adès's The Tempest at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The performance was in charge of:
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Large Radio Choir
Markus Stenz, conductor
Patricia Risley, soprano
Simon Keenlyside, baritone
Cyndia Sieden, soprano
William Ferguson, tenor
Greg Warren, tenor
Simon Kirkbride, baritone
David Hansen, countertenor
Philip Sheffield, tenor
Mark Stone, baritone
Quentin Hayes, baritone
Stuart Kale, tenor

Unfortunately the good tickets sold out fast, and even buying one month in advance I could only get choir seats. These are far from ideal, because the percussion tends to sound too present, and the soloists too distant. The orchestra as a whole also sounds wrong, because the violins are too far, but the Concertgebouw's main room still has decent acoustics even in choir seats. Besides, I wouldn't want to miss this performance, as I have enjoyed most of what I've heard from Adès so far.

The Tempest was not an exception. In fact, it was one of the most interesting things I've heard lately. The performance was convincing, even from my seating position, and the audience seemed to enjoy it too (at least I saw no one running away during the performance, like with Messiaen's Turangalîla some time ago). Adès wrote the opera with a libretto by Meredith Oakes based on the original Shakespeare play of the same name. Be sure to read the synopsis on Wikipedia.

I managed to find some live recording of this work from its 2004 performance at the Covent Garden. The quality is not superb, but it should do for a hint of what I'm talking about. EMI is due to release a recording soon. First, an excerpt from the opening:

And then an excerpt from an amazing solo of Ariel, performed by Cyndia Sieden. While not flawless, her performance was mesmerizing. The fiendishly hard role of Ariel in this opera calls for a high soprano with superb vocal technique. But perhaps the most impressive part of this role is this delicate solo in pianissimo:

This got me stuck to my chair, wishing it would never end.

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