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The enchanted island : concert piece for soprano, baritone and orchestra

by Ralph Middenway (2012)

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Work Overview

Derived from the opera The Tempest.

'Storm Dance'
A fortissimo thunderclap precedes a descending chromatic orchestral wail. From a wild flourish the ballet music emerges, pianissimo at first, bald and episodic, in a barbaric 11/8 (2+2+2+2+3), and based on a pair of spiky interval rows.

'Miranda's Lament'
This emerges from the dance; the vocal line is declamatory, with occasional melismata. The lyrics are selected from Shakespeare's playscript of The Tempest.

'Prospero's Narration'
An angry, punctuated recitative eventually settles to a calm arioso. A highly figured passage, derived from a 'magic' chord CDFG, introduces Ariel, with new material, its tone centre continually climbing before breaking free.

'Banquet Dance'
Requested for the Tasmanian Discovery Orchestra in 2012, and extracted and rewritten to suit; the rest followed. It starts in 5:8 (2+3), then 3:4 (1+2), a long, amiable tune in parallel chords, with a bass line generally in contrary motion, tension on the first beat in each bar 'resolving' on the second. After a climax, there is a nasty recapitulation, a brief parody of the long tune. The number ends uncomfortably.

'Prospero's Dream'
The form of Prospero's 'Our revels now are ended' was edited to provide an overall ABA feel to the piece, in line with its dramatic content.

Work Details

Year: 2012

Instrumentation: Soprano, baritone, and orchestra: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets in B flat (2nd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (2 players), celeste, harp, strings.

Duration: 25 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — All parts are busy from time to time; some loud tutti passages will inevitably sound raucous.

Contents note: 1. Prelude -- 2. Narration -- 3. Arietta -- 4. Duet -- 5. Banquet dance -- 6. Prospero's dream.

Dedication note: Dedicated to my wife Aina Dambitis

First performance: by Tasmanian Discovery Orchestra — Mar 12. Hobart Conservatorium, Hobart, Tasmania

The composer notes:
The vocal writing is driven by the lyrics, as always in my music–see UTas PhD exegesis, 'If Music and Sweet Poetry Agree', the cantata 'The Sun of Umbria' and my many and varied songs. 'The Tempest' is my third opera (the other two were commissioned) and there are comparable features in all three, but this is larger in scale and broader in scope.

The soprano plays Miranda and Ariel; the baritone plays Prospero

"Originally commissioned for now defunct Latvian orchestra with funding from (US) Mara Dole Foundation. I went on to write the opera because I couldn't NOT write it" (composer's note).

Pilot versions of 'Banquet Dance' and 'Prospero's Dream' performed by Robert Dawe and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Patrick Thomas, ABC Collinswood Studio, recorded by ABC-FM and broadcast a few times.

Performances of this work

Mar 12: Hobart Conservatorium, Hobart, Tasmania. Featuring Tasmanian Discovery Orchestra.

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