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4 - ‘Oh brave new Caliban’

Postcolonial Perspectives on Adès’s The Tempest

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2021

Edward Venn
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
Philip Stoecker
Affiliation:
Hofstra University, New York
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Summary

This chapter investigates Adès’s 2003–4 opera The Tempest in the context of postcolonial theory, arguing that the adaptation considerably transforms the statuses of Caliban, Ariel, and Prospero. I situate the opera within major strands of postcolonial thought of the past half-century, focussing especially on Caliban as a way to explore themes of resistance, identity and diaspora. Identifying the opera’s transformations in the libretto, I then explore how both text and Adès’s music work as ambiguous signifiers of political subtexts, centring on ideas of servitude and power. Touching also on the different aesthetics of the several contrasting productions of the opera, I tie together these different areas to put this operatic Tempest in dialogue with the extensive corpus of critical approaches to the play in literature, film and theatre. I conclude by suggesting that it can be productively analysed in the context of legacies of colonialism and empire in twenty-first-century Britain.

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Thomas Adès Studies , pp. 72 - 92
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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