• The Enchanted Island Classroom Activity

The activities in this guide address various aspects of The Enchanted Island:

  • the characters, relationships, and dramatic conventions of the Shakespeare plays that inspired the libretto 
  • the dramatic and musical form of pastiche 
  • the creation of a new musical work based on various pre-existing artistic elements and forms 
  • the production as a unified work of art, involving creative decisions by the artists of the Metropolitan Opera

The guide is intended to cultivate students’ interest in The Enchanted Island whether or not they have any prior acquaintance with opera. It includes activities designed to interest students irrespective of their musical backgrounds, seeking to encourage them to think about opera—and the performing arts in general—as a medium of entertainment and creative expression.

Mix and Matchmaking:
A Close Look at the Use of Elements of Shakespearean Drama in The Enchanted Island

Usually an opera composer works in partnership with a librettist, writing music to create characters and tell a story. But the process differs for the composite form known as pastiche. Here, a new libretto is fitted to existing music of one or more composers. The libretto might be based on an existing work, like Ivanhoé, an 1826 pastiche after Sir Walter Scott’s novel that is set to music from various operas by Gioachino Rossini. Or it might tell a story from history, as in a pastiche created in 1976, recounting the life of Christopher Columbus and constructed from music by operetta composer Jacques Offenbach. In devising The Enchanted Island, the English writer, translator, and director Jeremy Sams took arias and ensembles from operas by six different Baroque composers and fit a new libretto to the music, interweaving characters, settings, and themes from two plays by William Shakespeare. In this activity, students will become acquainted with the elements Sams borrowed from these plays and with the challenge he undertook in creating a new dramatic unity from the material. They will:

  • familiarize themselves with the characters and relationships in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest
  • devise their own plots for a pastiche involving these characters
  • choose appropriate contemporary music (optional)
  • write new lyrics to complete their own Shakespeare-based pastiche (optional)