Vic Hoyland

For Ariel

for high voice, either male or female


Commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music as part of their 200th Anniversary Year.


This performance piece for high solo voice (male or female) can be presented purely as a concert work or as staged – either minimal or presented, and from memory – as a short play lasting some 11 minutes maximum. As a purely concert work it would have a duration of just under 10 minutes.

A simple lighting scheme is suggested; to lead the performance through its varied stages. It is a blank performance space. The work divides into two parts. As the singer enters from stage left, in a quick but discontinuous walk, a cold white spot-light should slowly focus a semi-circular central performance space. The singer ‘creates’ this space by walking round it in an anti-clockwise route, to arrive front centre. It should only take 30” to a minute-maximum to arrive in position. The first 9 bars of music are sung during this entrance.

There follows a brief mimed section, as if Ariel were speaking this text from The Tempest: “To every article. I boarded the King’s ship. Now on the beak, Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin. I flamed amazement. Sometime I’d divide, And burn in many places; on the top mast, The yards, the bowsprit, would I flame distinctly; Then meet and join. Jove’s lightning, the precursors O’ th’ dreadful thunderclaps, more momentary And sight-outrunning were not. The fire and cracks Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune Seem to besiege, and make bold waves tremble, Yea his dread trident shake.”

It may help to access the DVDs of Giorgio Strehler’s La Tempesta (DVD volume 1 of Il Grande Teatro di Giorgio Strehler) and of “Les Enfants du Paradis” (with Jean Louis-Barrault acting the part of Pierrot) to sense what the mime in this little work might be.

A sudden change of mood as the spot-light becomes a much warmer, golden yellow circle. The performer looks to the audience to draw them into the performance and begins to sing “Come Unto These Yellow Sands”.

A second mime follows, as if Ariel were listening to Ferdinand’s speech and considering what to do next.

“Where should this music be? I’ th’ air or th’ earth? It sounds no more; and sure it waits upon Some god o’ th’ island. Sitting on a bank, Weeping again the King my father’s wreck, This music crept by me upon the waters, Allaying both their fury and my passion With its sweet air. Thence have I followed it – Or it hath drawn me rather. But ’tis gone. No, it begins again.”

As the circle turns a Mediterranean blue in colour and as Ariel ‘hears’ “sitting upon a bank”, the performer slips down to an edge of the circle and sits on the floor, in order to sing “Full fathom five”.

Part 2 begins with the spot-light circle transforming from blue to fiery red. Ariel sits up alert and agitated to deliver “ While you here do snoring lie.”

The light begins to soften and return to the softer white/golden yellow, similar but not quite the same as before. Ariel rises to chant “Where the bee sucks” . It should be quietly ecstatic, beautifully sustained and completely without any sense of metre – as slow as the singer might be able to sustain the sounds.

Ariel then speaks the text, sotto voce: “Then, to the elements. To be free” and again with short fast walking steps, exit stage-left as the light dims.

Vic Hoyland, July 4, 2019

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