This activity requires no preparation other than attendance at The Met: Live in HD transmission of The Enchanted Island. Reproducible texts and audio files for the activity can be found below.
English Language Arts (Poetry)/Music
- To deepen students' acquaintance with Baroque music
- To enrich appreciation of the challenge of repurposing vocal music for a new theatrical work
- To experiment with the creative act of writing new text to existing music
Texts and translations for this activity can be found here.
Students will enjoy starting the class with an open discussion of the Met performance. What did they like? What didn’t they? Did anything surprise them? What would they like to see or hear again? What would they have done differently? This discussion will offer students an opportunity to review the notes on their My Highs & Lows sheet—in short, to see themselves as experts on The Enchanted Island.
Now that students have seen The Enchanted Island, they will have a strong sense of its tone and style, at once Baroque and contemporary. What they may not have been able to fully experience, despite their awareness of it, are two key aspects of the pastiche form:
In this post-show activity, students will listen closely to two arias (by different composers) from The Enchanted Island in their original form and compare them to the new versions with text by Jeremy Sams. Three mini-activities are provided, focusing on music, texts, and creative experience.
An excerpt from "Un pensiero nemico di pace" ("A thought inimical to peace"), an aria from Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno ("The Triumph of Time and Disillusion," 1707). The music is used for the aria Ariel sings to Prospero in the first scene of the opera, affirming his commitment to service.
An excerpt from "Gelido in ogni vena" ("Icy, in every vein"), an aria from Vivaldi’s Il Farnace (the title refers to Pharnaces, the king of a nation in present-day Turkey defeated by the Roman Empire; the opera was first performed in 1727). The music of this piece is used for the aria Caliban sings to Sycorax in Act I, shortly after seeing Miranda for the first time.
Feel free to use any or all of the parts of this activity, based on your needs and your students’ strengths and interests. Reproducibles for each of the mini-activities, including original Italian texts, translations, and new English texts, can be found within the activity.
STEP 1: Distribute the post-show reproducible The Enchanted Island: Libretto, which includes the Enchanted Island texts for the two musical excerpts. Remind students of the two arias and their position in the opera. Probe to see whether students remember these pieces, and if so, what they remember about the scenes, the emotions, and/or the music itself.
STEP 2: Play Post-Show Track 1 (an excerpt from Handel’s "Un pensiero nemico di pace"). Ask students to jot down a few notes about their response to the music—what it sounds like, its rhythm and tempo, what instruments they hear, how it makes them feel, etc. (The music is briskly paced, the words tumble out rapidly and with multiple repetitions. Harpsichord and swiftly bowed violins accompany the singer.)
STEP 3: Play Track 2 (an excerpt from Vivaldi’s "Gelido in ogni vena") and have them jot down similar notes. (The music here is stately and slow, even solemn, with only occasional extra notes in the accompaniment. The singer sounds concerned, even upset.)
STEP 4A: If, in Step 1, your students remembered the music associated with either or both of the texts, engage them in a discussion about why they think Jeremy Sams chose each piece of music for its respective moment in the opera. How does the music serve the dramatic situation? (Excited and enthusiastic for Ariel’s aria; pensive, even chilling for Caliban’s.) How does Sams’s text align with the music? Do they feel this was a successful combination? What might they have done differently?
STEP 4B: If, in Step 1, your students were not able to recall the music associated with the texts, invite them to guess which text goes with which piece and to justify their guesses based on what they heard in the music. (Text 2 actually goes with Post-Show Track 1, and Text 1 with Post-Show Track 2). If there are differences of opinion, once they have been heard, you may want the class to vote on which text goes with which piece of music. Then offer the correct answers and go to Step 4a.
STEP 5: If time and enthusiasm allows, students may enjoy identifying familiar pieces of music (e.g. pop songs, folk songs, other classical pieces) they think might be suitable for the situations or even the actual texts in The Enchanted Island. This is likely to provoke a lively discussion about the appropriateness of the matches they propose.
STEP 1: Distribute the post-show reproducible The Enchanted Island: Original Texts, which includes the Italian texts with translations, and have students follow along as you play the two excerpts from The Enchanted Island. (Text A is from Handel’s "Un pensiero nemico di pace," Text B is from Vivaldi’s "Gelido in ogni vena.")
STEP 2: Engage students in a discussion about the meanings of the two texts. Did the music they just heard match the texts Vivaldi and Handel used? What did they hear or read that indicated the correspondence?
STEP 3: If you have not already done so, distribute the music reproducible, which includes the Enchanted Island texts for the two musical excerpts. Then, if you haven’t done the Music Mini-Activity above, point out which text goes with which musical excerpt and original Italian text (note that the texts on Post-Show: Music appear in reverse order: Enchanted Island Text 2 actually goes with Post-Show Track 1, the Handel piece, and Enchanted Island Text 1 with Post-Show Track 2, the Vivaldi piece).
STEP 4: Discuss the relationship between the meanings of the original texts and the new text for each of the two pieces. How are their meanings and purposes similar? Different? How do the meanings of the texts affect your students’ response to the music? Does the music work equally well for each set of meanings and purposes? Why?
STEP 5: If time and enthusiasm allows, students may enjoy writing their own texts for one or both of the two pieces, either alone or in pairs. They should first identify a mood or situation they envision as the setting for their reworking, then go ahead and write the texts. Have them share their texts with one another and discuss the many different approaches they’ve taken, as well as the robustness of a piece of music that can be used in so many different ways.
Now that students have become familiar with the concept of pastiche, they may enjoy taking on the creative challenge themselves. In class or for homework, alone, in pairs, or in small groups, they can choose a favorite contemporary song, then write a new text for a particular dramatic setting and purpose. Students might want to
create a text for one of the characters in The Enchanted Island
choose or write another story as the setting for their work
choose a different dramatic context (a commercial, a public service announcement, a Presidential campaign ad)
If time and enthusiasm allows, you may want to approach this creative experience as a class project, deciding on a single setting and creating a full-scale "pastiche" with multiple musical pieces and characters.
This chart includes the original Italian text to "Un pensiero nemico di pace" and "Gelido in ogni vena," the English translation, and Jeremy Sams’s new text for The Enchanted Island. You can use this chart as a reference as you conduct the activity and/or distribute it to students after you’ve completed the Post-Show Discussion activity.