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Garsington Opera’s new A Midsummer Night time’s Dream, although atmospheric, lacks an total idea – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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United KingdomUnited Kingdom Garsington Opera 2024 [3] – Britten, A Midsummer Night time’s Dream: Soloists, Garsington Opera Youth Firm, Philharmonia Orchestra / Douglas Boyd (conductor). Garsington Opera at Wormsley, 21.6.2024. (CR)

Lucy-Crowe (Tytania) and Richard Burkhard (Backside) © Craig Fuller

A Midsummer Night time’s Dream – this efficiency fortunately falling on the summer season solstice – naturally attracts the creativeness away from town to the woods and forests which lie aside, particularly in Britten’s operatic model of Shakespeare’s play which cuts many of the motion on the Athenian courtroom of Theseus and Hippolyta. Garsington Opera’s auditorium within the midst of the Wormsley Property within the Chilterns is properly positioned to take advantage of that ambiance with its clear aspect partitions already providing a view to the gardens and bushes outdoors, in order that the boundaries between closed-in theatre and the pure world past are already fairly porous (and the stagings of assorted different operas there up to now have made use of that truth very successfully up to now).

For her new manufacturing (first seen at Santa Fe Opera in 2021), Netia Jones goes a step additional in that, for Act I, the auditorium is opened in the back of the stage to indicate the bushes outdoors; for the set itself, it as if nature is preventing again and claiming its personal place once more as an alternative of that of a synthetic, artifical, opera home, as a tree has sprouted by way of the sloping stage flooring, spearing a grand piano within the course of. Simply as Britten’s music disclaims nearly each potential grandiloquent, Romantic Wagnerian gesture, so the set exhibits nature smothering what man has made round it, reasonably than Hunding’s hut in Die Walküre being constructed round and dominating an ash tree, which is additional subdued with the sword thrust into it. For Acts II and III the set is closed in and the clear or open sides shuttered off to create a darkish, shadowy surroundings; (uncredited) video projections on a disc present animals and creepy crawlies thriving in nature, earlier than giving method to a full moon, with all of the connotations that has in literature, artwork, and legend. The sense of the unusual and sinister is evocatively conjured by having the kids’s refrain of fairies clad within the black costumes of assorted totally different creatures, popping up unexpectedly from below the stage or behind the tree, and reclaiming the concept of fairies as considerably doubtful beings reasonably than charmingly glittering will-o’-the-wisps.

Iestyn Davies (Oberon) © Julian Guidera

Different facets of the staging are visually arresting and doubtlessly pregnant with that means – a smaller model of the sloping flooring, spherical mannequin, and suspended disc of the principle set are tellingly assembled for Pyramus and Thisbe, the play throughout the play; the 2 pairs of conflicted lovers on the centre of the work are dressed up as schoolchildren, presumably a remark upon the risky, wayward classes in love they obtain throughout its course; the impolite mechanicals are attired in roughly the type of the Twenties to ‘30s, calling to thoughts one thing of a Laurel and Hardy slapstick humour in consequence; and the sofa that’s current on the stage a lot of the time simply presumably alludes to a Freudian interpretation of the dream-like fantasy of the entire play’s farrago.

Much less clear is why Theseus and Hippolyta’s marriage is twice proven as surreally doomed from the beginning (earlier than they even correctly seem as singing characters) when he comes on drunk and he or she attracts an enormous gauze-like gown behind her from a a lot bigger roll of ready-made materials, which Puck cuts off to the specified size. Nevertheless atmospheric because it all undoubtedly is, it isn’t obvious that just a few felicitous however dramatically inert concepts precisely add as much as an total idea or interpretation of the work that may be latched on to. That lack maybe explains the misinterpretation and miscasting of the spoken position of Puck right here.

Though Jerone Marsh-Reid jumps out of the tree in a lime-coloured swimsuit, like an impish inexperienced man, and is certainly athletic, the choreography of his cavorting on stage is simply too muscular and grounded for the agile sprite of Shakespeare’s conception, and Marsh-Reid tends to bellow the traces reasonably than declaim them with clever nuance.

Vocally the efficiency is subtly and idiomatically characterised on the entire, above all in Iestyn Davies and Lucy Crowe’s otherworldly accounts of the fairy king and queen, Oberon icily precise and calculating, Tytania whimsical and flighty in her unsettling coloratura, reasonably than flashily vibrant. In contrast with them, the human lovers all aptly embody ardour and gusto of their numerous amorous and jealous ventures, James Geidt notably spectacular for his daring, pressing efficiency as Demetrius, stepping in to exchange James Newby. Nicholas Crawley and Christine Byrne (the latter additionally a stand-in, for Christine Rice) exude a sure aristocratic reserve and steadiness as Theseus and Hippolyta, whereas the impolite mechanicals obtain affectionately earthy interpretations from all involved, guided in spirit (if not within the play) by Richard Burkhard’s irrepressible Backside, and John Savournin additionally deserves a point out for the dance flip he takes on stage.

Douglas Boyd oversees a musically taut efficiency from the pit, with the chosen members of the Philharmonia Orchestra for Britten’s chamber scoring, sustaining as a lot rigidity and presence because the often-sparse textures enable. The Garsington Opera Youth Firm refrain apparently comprise younger native singers who haven’t had the good thing about skilled musical coaching, however that was hardly evident from their eager, spirited contributions within the jaunty numbers for them.

Curtis Rogers

Solid:
Oberon – Iestyn Davies
Tytania – Lucy Crowe
Puck – Jerone Marsh-Reid
Lysander – Caspar Singh
Demetrius – James Geidt
Hermia – Stephanie Wake-Edwards
Helena – Camilla Harris
Theseus – Nicholas Crawley
Hippolyta – Christine Byrne
Quince – John Savournin
Backside – Richard Burkhard
Flute – James Approach
Cosy – Frazer Scott
Starveling – Geoffrey Dolton
Snout – Adam Sullivan

Manufacturing:
Director and Designer – Netia Jones
Lighting designer – D. M. Wooden
Choreographer – Rebecca Meltzer
Battle director – Christian Sordelet

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