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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warning: this DVD may make opera lovers out of Shakespeare fans and
vice versa. But all joking aside, this is a truly wonderful production.
Colors are muted in this forest (until the sun comes up in the end),
and the fairies, except for Damien Nash's redheaded Puck, are all in
black and silver.
There's a pleasing quartet of young lovers, and a hilariously earnest band of rude mechanicals--the masque of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in the end is absolutely priceless. If pressed for an absolute standout, I'd have to go for two players--Roumanian soprano Ileana Cotrubas is a delicate Tytania and Curt Appelgren makes more than the most of Bottom, the hapless ass-headed weaver. Both performers are non-English speakers with faultless diction. But then, everybody does themselves (and Shakespeare himself) proud in this memorable production from Glyndebourne.
By the way, this show is staged by Sir Peter Hall, who filmed the Shakespeare original circa 1970, with a cast including Dame Judi Dench and Ian Holm. I understand it was quite different from this operatic outing, although I have still not managed to see it. In the meantime, this operatic setting of Shakespeare by Benjamin Britten will give many hours of pleasure.
I like Britten's music, though his style may be one that either you love, grows on you overtime(admittedly this was the case with me) or you don't care for it. A Midsummer Night's Dream is not my favourite Britten, I do prefer Peter Grimes, Billy Budd and Albert Herring and Let's Make an Opera is probably his most accessible(especially from a younger perspective), but the story while confusing at first is timeless and the music sparkles. This Peter Hall-directed production is very entertaining. The set design is wonderfully magical and eerie, and the costumes especially the mystical ones for the fairies are sumptuous. The video directing is focused on the comedy and drama and never feels bland. The music is really wonderful, and performed stylishly and beautifully by the orchestra and conducted with precision by Bernard Haitink. The staging also works very well with the highlight being the joy that is the Pyramus and Tisbe drama spoofing Bel Canto and hilariously. The singing is wonderful, the standouts I agree being the sexy and refined Tytania of Ileana Cotrubas and the wonderfully tricky Bottom of Curt Appelgren. Felicity Lott, Cynthia Buchan, Ryland Davies and Dale Duesing also give good turns. James Bowman's Oberon is tall and commanding, but while pleasant his counter-tenor(which Britten deliberately chose for dramatic contrast) voice has been more powerful before. However though, I was very entertained watching this Midsummer Night's Dream. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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