Week of the election – Tempests

Was the dawning week just after Sandy warped time. Just after standard time returned. Just after, just after. Was the week we saw, on Tuesday evening, The Tempest as opera, music by Thomas Ades, script by Meredith Oakes. We were gifted wonderful seats.

It was Election Day—an evening when I will do anything to avoid breathless TV pundits, explaining it all to me.

Tempest upends everything. Tempest upended the expected ending—and the change of script is brilliant!  The more time passing since Sandy passed the more upended we know we have been and will be.

At Rockaway… (Getty Images)

What kind of vengeance can there be?  Will summer cottages be rebuilt on these skimpy barrier islands, effectively strips of offshore sand bar?  We can’t think NOT. We can’t think YES either.  The Jersey Shore has long since disappeared behind hefty cement banks lining shore roads from Sandy Hook to Cape May.  Each year, more groins, more imported sand, more reinforcement for the beach walls.  Routine surges of two or three, of ominous four feet have flattened dunes and lapped up beach space almost every winter. Many homes along on the Jersey oceanfront have sprouted second-story balconies—to have an ocean view over the wall.

Tempest upended the expected ending—and the change of script is brilliant!  The humans all return to ordinary life in Naples. To promises of political reform, to young love consummated, to Stafano and Trinculo unchanged as they are ever. (Trinculo sung by an hilarious counter-tenor Iestyn Davies.) Home all, to reconciliation, the seductive rival of justice.  It is not a magisterial Prospero who reinstates order on the island before breaking his staff, drowning his book.  This Prospero is solid sexy in multicolored tats; biker beaux art, mercurial and irritable, not composed in his power.

Simon Keenlyside as Prospero. Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera, www.metoperafamily.org

When staff and book are gone, something alien remains.  Prospero robes up in clothing normal for a duke and leaves.  It’s Caliban and Ariel (after a torrent of Meredith Monk-like riffs) who together–on tiptoe– recast the island into something else. Magics for good and ill are bound there, and the new script allows that they, they alone, claim it.

Audrey Luna as Ariel. Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera, www.metoperafamily.org

Tides and grasses, oysters, slime, horseshoe crabs.  Many strange shapes.  Odd music all the humans comment on.

About 400 homes on the city’s barrier-island neighborhoods are being bulldozed today. Another 500 are still to be inspected to see if they too are so damaged they go on the list. This total is in addition to almost 200 others burned down or completely washed away.  Almost all are one- or two-family houses. Bits of cherished blue-collar heaven. Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn. The sites will be sand.

Who sings of father’s eyes?

Afterwards we came home up our leaf-littered but otherwise normal Park Slope street to hear the jubilant voices of our black neighbors, many of whom had shared with us the three-hour wait to vote that morning.  “He’s really in?  Romney has conceded?” “Don’t worry. He’s got it.” As if Joe Louis had just finished off Max Schmelling. Upended.

Calm summer morning, East Hampton

 

 

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