The Tempest is a work for actor-puppeteers and symphony orchestra based on Shakespeare's play with text adapted by Wes Sanders and the composer. In the original production by the Underground Railway Theater, four actor-puppeteers provided the voices and animated the shadow puppets. One puppeteer provided the voices of Prospero and Caliban, one the voice of Miranda and one the voices Ferdinand and Alonso. The role of Ariel was represented not by a voice, but by the piccolo(s) accompanying dancing images of light. The production, designed by David Fichter, had a pre-Columbian Latin-American setting.
The music for The Tempest emphasizes the cultural clash between the "Old World" of Prospero and the Europeans and the "New World" of Ariel and Caliban, as Shakespeare would have perceived it in exhibitions from the Virginia Company in 1613. The score includes recorded sounds of Mexican birds, high instrumental imitations of Mexican bird calls (particularly in the depiction of Ariel) and Andean folk melodies as well as an Elizabethan quotation, from William Byrd's Earl of Salisbury Pavane.
The orchestration reinforces the story's cultural dichotomy with exotic non-Western percussion sounds (marimba, gourds, rattles, etc.) merging with the European harpsichord and traditional orchestral forces. The story's magical framework is represented musically by sweeping harp glissandos and by colorful splashes of the overtone series throughout the orchestra's registral spectrum. The music is infused with lyrical atonality in a romantically dramatic style.
--Robert Xavier Rodriguez
A brief, exotically colored, pre-Columbian Latin-American setting of Shakespeare's play that emphasizes the cultural clash between the "Old World" of Prospero and the Europeans and the "New World" of Ariel and Caliban.