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A Midsummer Night’s Dream review at Nevill Holt Opera – ‘an enchanting evening’

Daisy Brown and the children's chorus in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Nevill Holt Opera. Photo: Ali Wright
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Thus far, the 2019 country-house season has been partially stymied by the weather, which remains doggedly uncongenial for pastoral picnics or parkland outings; yet artistic standards continue to be high, and are so once again in Anna Morrissey’s funny yet thoughtful presentation of Britten’s Shakespearean opera.

The show can rely on the exceptional musical values maintained by Nevill Holt’s artistic director, conductor Nicholas Chalmers, who explores the score with an ear for fine detail as well as, in his overview, luminosity of tone: in the pit the Britten Sinfonia is on wonderful form.

Working with designer Simon Kenny and acting as her own choreographer, Morrissey conveys in silvery, moonstruck visuals the individuality of the three diverse worlds that collide in the Athenian forest, binding them all together in a staging that encompasses the humour, emotional complexity and occasionally sheer darkness of the piece (notably here in Theseus’ humiliating treatment of Hippolyta), while somehow maintaining a crucial air of magic; indeed her balancing of these elements is nigh-on perfect.

So, too, are many individual performances, with exceptional standouts from Timothy Morgan’s lucid Oberon, Jasper William Cartwright’s fearlessly athletic yet equally articulate Puck, and Lawson Anderson’s grandstanding Bottom, together with neatly interlocking ensembles of mis- (or re-) matched lovers, and of comical yet simultaneously human mechanicals.

Britten’s fairy troupe is winningly realised by a children’s chorus drawn from three local schools involved in the David Ross Education Trust, their finely honed vocal qualities under chorus master Simon Toyne’s leadership as assured as their dramatic engagement is vital. In short: an enchanted evening indeed.

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Conductor Nicholas Chalmers and director Anna Morrissey create an enchanting production of Britten's opera