• The Enchanted Island Musical Highlights

Musical Highlights are brief opportunities to:

  • Help students make sense of opera
  • Whet their interest in upcoming Metropolitan Opera Live in HD transmissions

These mini-lessons will in practice take up no more than a few minutes of class time. They are designed to help you bring opera into your classroom while minimizing interruption of your ongoing curriculum. Feel free to use as many as you like.

The music heard in The Enchanted Island was written by George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and several other 18th-century composers. Even if these names are unfamiliar to your students, they might recognize some of their music. Have they ever heard the “Hallelujah” chorus from Messiah? Handel wrote it. The Four Seasons? Vivaldi. But even if some of these composers’ works have remained extraordinary popular, their operas are rarely performed today (with the exception of Handel, whose stage works have seen a major renaissance in the second half of the 20th century).

But during their own lifetimes, all of these composers were celebrities, internationally renowned, friends with kings and rulers, and especially famous for their operas. They were also prolific: Vivaldi claimed to have written close to 100 operas (although the actual number is probably lower and only some two dozen survive). Handel wrote more than 40, Rameau about 30. In other words, these composers created a massive amount of music that once dominated the stage but has since largely disappeared from the repertoire.

What happened? Time passed. Taste changed and opera became a different kind of musical theater as the centuries wore on. This doesn’t mean that these works should feel foreign to us today. After all, the music of The Enchanted Island is full of virtuosic singing, well-crafted melodies, and subtle instrumental writing. Through many of their other works, we’re familiar with the beauty of Handel and Vivaldi’s music. But in order to understand how music and text work together to tell a story—to understand what makes a Baroque opera—we need to embark on a historical journey.

This guide will introduce you to the ideas and conventions of 18th-century musical theater. It will enable you and your students to understand why this music was written in the way it was and how people listened to it in the past. At the same time, it will open your mind and ears to the infinite possibilities of experiencing this music in new and exciting ways today. This dialogue between the past and the present is one of the main aspects that make The Enchanted Island such a fascinating project.

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