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A Midsummer Night’s Dream opera review at Glyndebourne – ‘effective revival’

David Evans and Tim Mead in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Glyndebourne Festival. Photo: Robert Workman

In an age in which Britten’s take on Shakespeare can morph into a disquisition on paedophilia at directorial whim, Peter Hall’s celebrated production, first seen in 1981, risks seeming like a relic from a different age. That the show works so well in this revival says much about the skill of the original team in creating a magical realm in the service of the score, sufficient unto itself.

Aspects that were once innovative – the trees in constant movement and a forest design concept in blue-black and silver – remain striking, while unsuspected warmth and humanity is found in Britten’s score.

The Glyndebourne venue itself contributes not a little to the success of the evening, even if patrons take a while to settle during the druggy opening glissandi.

Back inside, the intimations of cruelty are never overplayed by a mostly experienced cast including veterans of the Met Opera’s 2013 revival and past participants in the present show.

Young David Evans is arguably the hero of the night. A late substitution as the non-singing, morally ambiguous Puck, he is strikingly confident and challengingly un-posh. Towering over him is counter-tenor Tim Mead’s well projected, suitably unearthly Oberon. Matthew Rose reprises his virile and booming Bottom.

It is not easy to make much of the human lovers, and Kate Royal’s vibrato is becoming the dominant feature of her Helena. Vocally speaking, Elizabeth DeShong’s Hermia fares better with a nice line in physical comedy.

The rustics’ play within a play represents Britten at his feeblest but, as throughout, the present team members give it their all. And Puck gets the last word.

No surprises but a fine cast graces this effective revival of a durable classic

Production Information

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
August 11, 2016
August 28, 2016
Press night
August 11, 2016
Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears (after Shakespeare)
Benjamin Britten
Peter Hall (director), Lynne Hockney (revival director and original choreographer)
Jakub Hrusa
John Bury
Paul Pyant
Liz Bury
Pauline Lecrass (head of costume), Keith Benson (head of lighting), Sarah Piper (make-up), Penny White (technical coordinator), Eric Gautron (technical director), Ian Jackson (company manager)
Stage manager
Stephen Cowin (head of stage management)
Production manager
Tom Harrison
Cast includes
Tim Mead, Kathleen Kim, Kate Royal, Elizabeth DeShong, Matthew Rose, Duncan Rock, Benjamin Hulett
Pal Moe (casting consultant)
Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Running time
4hrs 10mins