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The Enchanted Island review at Peacock Theatre, London – ‘a vibrant young cast’

Iuno Connolly and company in The Enchanted Island. Photo: Robert Workman

A baroque extravaganza, The Enchanted Island was conceived by Jeremy Sams for the Metropolitan Opera, New York, where its premiere cast in 2011 included Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels and Placido Domingo. This production by British Youth Opera is its first staging elsewhere.

It is a pasticcio – a kind of jukebox opera. Sams has built his own English libretto around vocal music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau and several lesser-known composers, drawing on both The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: four lovers end up shipwrecked, through Ariel’s intervention, on Prospero’s enchanted island, also inhabited by Caliban and his mother, Sycorax.

On the wide stage of the Peacock Theatre, Stuart Barker creates spectacle through imaginative use of the lively chorus – the tightly choreographed shipwreck of the SS Utopia is a triumph.

Nicky Shaw’s decor comprises a cyclorama of mobile screens and the costumes range from Elizabethan (the chorus of island spirits) through late Victorian (Prospero and Sycorax) to Jazz Age (the lovers).

There is a glow on the sound of Southbank Sinfonia’s modern instruments and Nicholas Kraemer conducts with flair, ensuring that the string of numbers (more than 20 in Act I alone) retains pace and cohesion.

Tom Scott-Cowell’s ringing countertenor makes him a suitably dominant Prospero, pitched against Frances Gregory’s intense, technically assured Sycorax. The nine other roles offer less opportunity for characterisation, but Iuno Connolly sparkles as Ariel, Timothy Edlin is a granite-voiced Caliban, James Atkinson brags stylishly as Lysander and Tim Morgan, entering proceedings late as Ferdinand, sings with considerable charm.

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Lively UK premiere of Jeremy Sams’ jukebox opera that showcases a vibrant young cast