chapter  18
16 Pages

Shakespeare, Italian Music-Drama, and Contemporary Performance: Space, Time, and the Acoustic Worlds of Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest

ByAnthony R. Guneratne

True enough, the glittering seasons during which, in the space of a year, audiences frequenting New York’s Lincoln Center witnessed no fewer than three major productions of Shakespeare adaptations, could by themselves have occasioned an article such as this one.1 Ushering in the New Year in 2012, The Enchanted Island, a specially commissioned nouveau Baroque pastiche opera, permitted Prospero’s pilfered domain to entertain not only its familiar dramatis personae and uninvited guests from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but also an imperious Neptune in the guise of tenor Plácido Domingo, who, having impersonated explorers, kings, and, most famously, Shakespeare’s Moorish-Venetian general, could at last play himself, a musical god. May saw the revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography of Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, the most often performed of all Shakespeare ballets, staged with the innovative twist of having many of the American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancers taking the lead roles on successive nights.2 The most

1 I am grateful to Paul Cremo of the Metropolitan Opera for a copy of the Enchanted Island libretto and to ABT’s Kelly Ryan, who sent production stills for me to verify my sketches of the spatial configurations of Romeo and Juliet. The West Side Story research in the Jerome Robbins archive and the study of Michael Powell’s Tempest scripts would not have been possible without the assistance of the specialist librarians at the New York Public Library and the British Film Institute, and support for this archival research and its associated Shakespeare texts came from the Folger Shakespeare Library and the American Philosophical Society. I owe literal translations of Prokofiev’s directions to Marina Kolodyazhnaya and Glen Worthey. For debts they will recognize, I thank Michele Marrapodi and the book’s readers, and dedicate these pages to Carlo Ginzburg, Guido Fink, Michael Holquist, and Douglas Hofstadter.