Published On: Wed, Aug 24th, 2016

Opera review: Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Halle Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder

Opera review: Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Halle Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder

The pinnacle of Sir Peter Hall’s operatic success at Glyndebourne was undoubtedly his 1981 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With designer John Bury he created a staging in which Britten’s music and Shakespeare’s words combined magically. Thirty-five years on, it is as ravishing as ever, revived here by its original choreographer Lynne Hockney. From the first eery, gliding notes of cello and bass, we are immersed in an enchanted forest. Slanting moonlight reveals shimmering trees that seem alive and breathing. Leaves quiver as if rustled by a breeze and trees shift shape as you look at them. The fairies – Trinity Boys Choir with pointed ears and gauzy wings – spring into the first song “Over hill, over dale”. The King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Tytania, are dressed in black and silver Elizabethan dress and thistledown wigs. Countertenor Tim Meads is finely cast as Oberon, his voice rising to the heights and yet possessing a robust warmth. His Fairy King has a spiteful streak, expressed in the acrimony towards Kathleen Kim’s ethereal Tytania as they squabble over custody of the Indian boy. Oberon is also pretty rough towards his spritely gofer Puck, throwing him to the ground after Puck causes chaos by his mistake as to which one of the Athenian lovers should get the troublesome love potion. As Puck, 11 year old David Evans is a revelation. Tiny, energetic, and crowned with a shock of red hair, he whizzes through the air on a leafy branch to “put a girdle round about the earth.” The lovers are nicely defined, Benjamin Hulett’s easy-going Lysander contrasting with Duncan Rock’s impetuous Demetrius. Elizabeth DeShong as Hermia and Kate Royal as Helena are well matched for trading insults over disparity in height. The third group in the forest, the rude mechanicals who tangle with fairies while rehearsing their play to present at court, are led by Matthew Rose’s resolutely cheerful Bottom. Well judged too are David Soar’s harassed director Quince and Anthony Gregory’s reluctant heroine Thisbe. The London Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Jakub Hrusa gives a sensitively phrased performance. The Royal Albert Hall proved an excellent setting for the London premiere of Colin Matthews’s Berceuse for Dresden, which takes its inspiration from the eight bells of Dresden’s Frauenkirche. It was written to mark the reconsecration in 2005 of the cathedral destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945. Cellist Leonard Elschenbroich brought out the reflective notes of the lullaby, and the…

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