Jacobi, Musicians Stir 'Tempest'
By Daniel Steven Crafts
From Claudius to Cadfael to Hamlet and now Prospero, Sir Derek Jacobi has long been one of the world's great actors. This past weekend he and his partner Richard Clifford brought to the Lensic Performing Arts Center staged excerpts of what may have been Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest. The afternoon more than fulfilled expectations.
Jacobi, like a host of other significant actors and writers (and humbly yours truly), has examined the plays and examined the life of the man from Stratford and concluded this marriage makes no sense. "Shake-speare" as it was originally hyphenated (the shaker of spears), was a pseudonym, a very common literary device especially in the Renaissance. Jacobi has been particularly outspoken on the subject, asserting that when looked at dispassionately, Edward deVere would appear the only logical candidate for authorship. "It just seems so obvious to me," Jacobi told me. "I want to see the right man finally get credit." The traditional Shakespeare biography is based almost entirely on speculation which when investigated critically falls to shreds.
The authorship controversy relates especially to The Tempest as the play was traditionally dated after deVere's death. Current research, however, has shown that to be false. If not Shake-speare's final word, The Tempest was certainly a late play, and though it has its dark moments is far less bleak than Timon, or King Lear. There is still a sense that justice may, if at length, eventually prevail in the world.
Jacobi gave Prospero a more commanding demeanor than I had imagined. "Our revels now are ended," for example, became a vigorous enjoinment, more vehement than I have ever heard it. He was employing, of course, a full stage voice as opposed to the more conversational decibel level at which we are used to hearing him in films. He projected qualities of both magic and realism, neither subsuming the other. He also did a bit of faux-singing as Stephano, the drunken would-be king. Complementing Jacobi were Richard Clifford and Irish actress Acushla Bastible[cq] each masterfully assuming multiple roles.
The presentation Sunday afternoon was evenly divided between dramatic recitation and music provided by the unfailingly excellent Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble, here at full strength. With the exception of Handel, the music was drawn from the mid Baroque period reflecting the 1674 "operatic" staging of the work in London.
Gracing the ensemble was Santa Fe's Deborah Domanski, a voice I have long considered Metropolitan Opera quality. Looking as voluptuous as her singing, she lent her gorgeous mezzo to a variety of songs and ultimately two exquisite Handel arias--the sensuously legato lines of an aria from Radamisto, followed by the coloratura fireworks of "Furibondo spira" from Partenope, which brought enthusiastic applause even from the actors. Domanski came within a hair's breath of stealing the show. Her stage presence easily equaled that of Jacobi's. (Why isn't this woman singing on world-class opera stages?)
Domanski also sang several duets with David Farwig who lent his smooth, colorful baritone to solo songs including the famous lyric "Full Fathom Five" in a setting here by John Banister.