• Arne Nordheim
  • Suite from 'The Tempest' (1979)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 2(2pic).1+ca.1+bcl.1+cbn/
  • Soprano, Baritone
  • 52 min

Programme Note

Arne Nordheim

For months, years, I devoted myself to Shakespeare's The Tempest, read it again and again in many countries and cities and in every season of the year, through all changes in weather and mood. I have frequently read it alone, filled with despair, then studied it again systematically together with Glen Tetley. I remember how I went walking over the aqueduct at Spoleto - the masterpiece of the great architect Gattapone - Shakespeare under my arm and the ballet in my heart, without knowing at the time that this magnificent structure had already been admired by Goethe, and painted by Turner.

The task: to put The Tempest in a new musical setting. It would have been impossible to carry out without the stimulating collaboration of Glen Tetley. It was he who brought me to understand his singular concept that music can be compared to a time machine that propels forward both men and action; it is the driving mechanism which keeps everything moving - like Prospero his universe.

Of all the works of Shakespeare that I know, there is none in which music is so often mentioned and plays such a great role as in The Tempest. Each person can be characterized musically, even Caliban the captive slave; he has eyes and ears for the stuff dreams are made on. He gazes from his ugly, half-buried body up to the stars and his soul conjures up resounding visions when he speaks his comforting words:

“Be not afear'd; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds, me thought, would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.”

In his book ‘Shakespeare Our Contemporary’ the Polish literary historian and theatre critic Jan Kott depicts a Prospero who takes after Leonardo da Vinci, and looks like his self-portrait: with dull white hair, similar to a bleached lion's mane, and with eyes which, restless and sceptical, seem to be asking us something - while he records his observations and only in the margin finds room for a very personal human outburst: Oh, Leonardo, wherefore toilest thou thus?!

The incompleteness of Leonardo's delicately drawn appliances - a consequence of the times he lived in -is compensated for by the magic wand of his genius - and suddenly I see how his characteristic traits merge together with those of Shakespeare and Prospero. And quite unexpectedly, the great Leonardo makes me a gift - he presents me with a musical rebus.

Based on the notation system of Guido of Arezzo, he first draws a fish hook, called an 'amo' in Italian. Then follows the note D, ie RE. Together, they spell the most beautiful word known to humanity: AMORE.

The meaning is now totally deciphered and revealed to us: "Amore sola mi fa remitare, la sol mi fa sollecita". (Love only makes me remember, it alone makes me alert.) This thought, which expresses silence, solitude and truth combined into one, concludes the ballet - like a paean of praise to the three great magicians and the solitude common to all men.

Arne Nordheim


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