Based on William Shakespeare’s popular comedy, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows the consequences of a falling-out between the fairy-king Oberon and his queen, Tytania. Mistaken identities, confused lovers and alarming transformations are the result.
Returning to ENO, Robert Carsen’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream explores the blurred relationships between reality and dreams, the natural and supernatural, and sexual desire.
From the sliding string chords of the magic wood to the rustics’ well-intentioned entertainment, Britten’s ear for beguiling orchestration and melodic invention will enchant and entice you.
In August 1959, Benjamin Britten decided to compose a full-evening opera to celebrate the reopening of the refurbished Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh in June 1960. As this left no time for a libretto to be prepared anew, he chose to work with Peter Pears and adapt William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Britten had always admired the original play and was excited by the various levels of action between the different groups of characters. As with The Turn Of The Screw, these groups are characterised by strongly differentiated musical colours: the bright, percussive sounds of harps, keyboards and percussion for the fairy world, warm strings and wind for the the pairs of lovers, and lower woodwind and brass for the mechanicals.
The opera is completely faithful to the spirit of the original play and must be counted as one of the most successful operatic adaptations of a Shakespeare play. It is possibly the most beguiling and enchanting of all Benjamin Britten’s operas, a work with a spellbinding atmosphere that inhabits a truly unique dreamlike world.
Leading the ENO cast as Oberon and Tytania are counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie and soprano Soraya Mafi. The roles of the lovers are taken by a quartet of rising stars – Eleanor Dennis as Helena, Clare Presland as Hermia, David Webb as Lysander, and Matthew Durkan as Demetrius. Young British conductor Alexander Soddy makes his ENO debut.
Sung in English, with surtitles projected above the stage.