Purcell’s semi-opera returns to the Glyndebourne stage in a revival of Jonathan Kent’s all-singing, all-dancing production, welcomed on its first arrival at this address in 2009. The form itself - a Restoration speciality - sounds unwieldy when described. Here you have a substantial but anonymously altered adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, vividly presented by a full company of actors. Then, at the end of each act, masques are added in, with songs, dances and choruses aplenty in each. It’s long, but the momentum does not falter over the evening.
Purcell’s score is a collection of memorable musical moments covering the subjects explored in each masque - one for sleep, another for seduction, another for marriage, and so on. With individual songs to suit each mood, from desperate sorrow to rambunctious comedy and all shades in between, the singers do a wonderful job of articulating the text and the composer’s immediately appealing notes.
A further group of dancers trip the complex and varied steps devised by Kim Brandstrup for the many characters who pop up along the way. A sudden outburst of rabbits mating in innumerable unlikely positions brings the house down.
Yet the play moves effortlessly into music and dance and then back again - singers act or dance, actors sing, and the musicians of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment deliver the score with striking character under the baton of Laurence Cummings.
That’s scarcely even to mention the wonderful contribution from the actors, led by Christopher Benjamin’s irrepressible Bottom. It’s an enchanting spectacle, not to be missed.