William Shakespeare • The Tempest
Comedy by William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
New production in German
Free bus shuttle service to the Perner-Insel, Hallein:
Departure in front of Reichenhaller Strasse 4
Buses depart to Perner-Insel, Hallein 1 hour before the performance begins.
Duration of performance approx. 3 hours and 10 minutes.
Print programme (PDF)
Branko Samarovski, Alonso, King of Naples
Max Urlacher, Sebastian, his brother
Peter Simonischek, Prospero, the overthrown Duke of Milan
Daniel Friedrich, Antonio
Maximilian Pulst, Ferdinand, Alonso's son
Charles Brauer, Gonzalo, a kindly Neapolitan courtier
Saskia von Winterfeld, Christian Dieterle, Member of the court society
Jens Harzer, Caliban
Matthias Bundschuh, Trinculo
Matthias Redlhammer, Stephano
Sara Tamburini, Miranda, daughter of Prospero
Dickie Beau, Ariel
Wolfgang Seidenberg, Boatsman
The Tempest is almost certainly Shakespeare’s last play – at least of solo authorship. We know so little of the biography of Shakespeare’s life, but we do know that The Tempest was written around 1610/11 and that it was performed at court on All Hallows’ day on 1 November 1611. We also know that for the last three years of his life, Shakespeare returned from a lifetime in London to his family and his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. He died there in 1616, shortly before his 52nd birthday, and is buried in the Parish Church on the banks of the River Avon. Much has been made of the biographical possibility that Prospero – the man of magic at the centre of this drama – is some kind of self-portrait of Shakespeare, turning his thoughts towards his own death and the inevitable relinquishing of his creative powers.
The story is set on a remote island where the exiled Duke of Milan – Prospero – masterminds a plan to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place. Through the power of magic he conjures up a storm – the tempest of the title – to trap his usurping brother Antonio and the complicit King Alonso of Naples on the island. There, through his manipulation of the natural and the supernatural he brings about the reve-lation of Antonio’s demonic nature, the redemption of the King and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand. There is also a glorious sub-plot involving Prospero’s ‘deformed’ slave Caliban (the rightful heir to the island) and two members of the ship’s crew, the court entertainer Trinculo and the cook/butler Stephano.
A work of pure imaginative genius, The Tempest entertains us with shape-changing spirits, magical transformations, theatrical masques, lovers, comedy and music. But this is also Shakespeare at the top of the highest peak of the final range of all his powers. Here we find his most famous poetry about the theatre, and here the human spirit dissected to show its gold – the qualities of mercy and forgiveness. Transformations, transmutations, transpositions – the brush and clash of hugely opposing things, comic, terrible and beautiful, make up this drama. It has inspired countless artists through the ages, dealing, as it does, with the shifting border between life and art itself, dream and drama, here and not here…
‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on
And our little life
Is rounded with a sleep…’
(Prospero, The Tempest, Act IV, Scene 1)
In the verse of The Tempest we experience a kind of love letter from Shakespeare to his own art, the play itself an homage to his greatest love of all – the theatre. The imagery of then lives in the play, alongside the imagery of now, and at the play’s core lies the ageless confrontation with mortality, tragic loss, redemption and the return to life. It is extraordinary to be contemplating this play at the end of a year dominated by pictures of terrifying, dangerous and life-changing sea journeys of those displaced with next to nothing, cast away on unknown islands. Once again we are reminded of what Ben Jonson said of his friend and rival William Shakespeare: ‘He was not of an age but for all time!’
When Sven-Eric Bechtolf invited me to return to Salzburg to direct a Shakespeare, I was thrilled to find The Tempest high up on his list. To come to Salzburg to make a new production of the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays – well, surely no better way to mark the 400th anniversary of his death.