Friday, 2 September 2016

Britten and Glyndebourne at their best (Glyndebourne/Dream)



Britten, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hrůša cond. LPO).
The last of the six operas I saw at the Glyndebourne Festival this year was certainly the most special: the revival of the 1981 Peter Hall production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I hadn’t seen it before, but everyone told me it was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen on stage. This made me a bit edgy, as hype like that cannot generally be satisfied.



Oberon (Tim Mead) and Puck (David Evans), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Glyndebourne Festival 2016. Image: Glyndebourne/Robert Workman.


But it’s true. It is literally the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see on stage. I saw it twice: the general rehearsal (8th August) and the penultimate performance (26th August), but these notes relate to the two performances. I therefore know that the dream-like state induced by that most exquisite evening in gardens gilded by later-summer sun on the 26th was not the only reason I felt slightly punch-drunk by the whole thing.
The production itself is important for Glyndebourne as it was the first time after the English Opera Group Britten performances in the 1940s.
The action opens in a forest near Athens. The trees are persons in black with huge tree structures affixed. Leaves are pointed to reflect light just so, each one positioned by hand before each performance. These are lit to a sublime degree, achieving an astonishing realism, but also unspeakable beauty. Puck, played by David Evans is impish, scampish and brilliant fun. He replaced the original actor cast at short notice. More will surely be heard from him.
From the pit, Hrůša made this a deeply musical score, every bit as easy to engage with at Grimes. With the LPO he created a delicately-textured dream world.



Fairies, Act III scene, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Glyndebourne Festival 2016. Image: Glyndebourne/Robert Workman.
The principals were wonderful indeed, most especially the male ones. Duncan Rock offered both strength and delicacy as Demetrius. Matthew Rose’s Bottom was superb vocally and comically. Tim Mead was on absolutely superb form. I still have goose bumps from ‘I know a bank where the while thyme blows’.  Ben Hullet made for a superb Lysander. The mechanicals and their play were genuinely funny. Especially the wall. Oh the wall.  The female voices were very fine. Tytania was played by Kathleen Kim, Elizabeth DeShong made a beautiful Hermia, and Kate Royal as Helena was magnificent. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Britten was more interested in the male voices, and here they produced the most memorable singing. These were two very special evenings, as everything combined most beautifully. Words don’t even start to make an impression. You just have to see it.

Overall: purest poetry
Cast and creative team
Conductor- Jakub Hrůša
Director- Peter Hall
Revival Director- Lynne Hockney
Set Designer- John Bury
Costume Designer- Liz Bury
Lighting Designer- Paul Pyant
Oberon- Tim Mead
Tytania- Kathleen Kim
Helena- Kate Royal
Hermia- Elizabeth DeShong
Bottom- Matthew Rose
Demetrius- Duncan Rock
Lysander- Benjamin Hulett

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