Who is Miranda? Where does she come from? Here are some clues to grasp the operatic creation devised by Katie Mitchell, Raphaël Pichon and Cordelia Lynn.
1. Miranda, a Shakespearian character
Although Miranda is an operatic creation, the character it’s named after is no invention. Miranda is the only female character in Shakespeare’s last play The Tempest, a protagonist not particularly developed in the play and yet crucial. As an object of desire and fantasies, Miranda means “she who must be admired” in Latin, and she catches men’s attention, especially that of her father Prospero, her husband Ferdinand and her father’s slave villainous Caliban.
2. Miranda, a semi-opera
In the 17th century semi-opera was a very popular genre consisting of drama and incidental music. Purcell composed the music to several semi-operas from Shakespeare’s plays, such as Timon of Athens, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Fairy Queen). Semi-opera was a lush extravaganza in which ballet was highlighted. Of this initial definition, Miranda mainly retains the alternation of speaking and singing parts, and between the acts, a masque sequence: a play within the play that disrupts the action.
3. Miranda, a distinctive operatic creation
A contemporary operatic creation implies a new musical composition. Yet, Miranda departs from the rule as it is based on 17th century musical pieces. In effect, Miranda was devised from a combination of incidental, vocal and instrumental music composed by Purcell which Raphaël Pichon wished to explore, regarding them as masterpieces. Thus, Miranda combines music from The Indian Queen and The Tempest, to mention semi-operas only. Here is an aria from it which you can listen to.
4. Miranda, a feminist work
Designed as a continuation to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda is the story of a woman as seen from her point of view. Together with librettist Cordelia Lynn, director Katie Mitchell reasserts in it her feminist activism by showing Miranda as the agent of events instead of being a mere object of desire. She thus becomes the main character of this opera. For Katie Mitchell, this choice was also a way to update Shakespeare in a form that is less patriarchal than in some of his plays.
5. Miranda and duality
As any semi-opera, Miranda features a masque between the acts. In the 17th century this form of entertainment was intended for the court, and Dido and Aeneas is a perfect example. But semi-opera could also contain a masque, which contributed to the dramatic effect of the opera. This duality is to be found elsewhere in Miranda since yesterday’s young Miranda and today’s Miranda appear onstage.
Miranda from 25 September through 5 October
Music direction, Raphaël Pichon
Tableau of Miranda - The Tempest by J. W. Waterhouse