A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Glyndebourne, GFO, August 2016Posted on 12 August 2016
This was a treat. Peter Hall’s production with its moving trees and bushes and gently swaying branches shows the forces of nature creating the magic that is so well exemplified in Benjamin Britten’s music. John Bury’s designs and Paul Pyant’s lighting foster an atmosphere where the desires of the lovers and the temerity of the ‘mechanicals’ can be touched by the natural enchantment personified by Oberon, Tytania, Puck and the fairies.
As Oberon himself counter-tenor Tim Mead was a compelling presence whose strong purity of voice belied his scheming intentions, and Kathleen Kim as Tytania produced magically tremulous coloratura. The Trinity Boys Choir sang and acted beautifully as the fairies, and David Evans’ wonderfully impish and forceful Puck attracted huge applause at the end. As the lovers, Duncan Rock made a marvellously robust Demetrius, adored by Kate Royal’s vocally nuanced Helena, and Benjamin Hulett sang a noble tenor as Lysander, with only Elizabeth DeShong’s Hermia somewhat spoiled by excess vibrato.
The ‘mechanicals’ formed a terrific crew with David Soar notable as Quince, and the engagingly hearty Bottom of Matthew Rose making a gloriously absurd partner for Tytania. In the final act Michael Sumuel’s excellent vocal and stage presence as Theseus was matched by fine singing from Claudia Huckle as his queen Hippolyta.
After the forest darkness of the first two acts, Peter Hall’s third act allows us to savour the earlier woodland enchantment as we see first Oberon and Tytania, then Puck, silhouetted in front of the rising sun before vanishing in the daylight as it shines on a beautifully lit quartet. After the lovers are united, and the ‘mechanicals’ have boldly presented their play to the Athenian Court, the final entrance of the fairies inside the palace at night time appears entirely in keeping with what has gone before as the natural world takes over from human agency.
And throughout this opera with its differing styles of music for fairies, lovers and ‘mechanicals’, Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša exhibited a marvellous lightness of touch. His strong affinity with the music of Janáček — he conducted Vixen earlier this season — makes him an ideal choice to interpret the sensitivity that Britten shows to the world of nature in this extraordinary opera. First performed at Glyndebourne thirty-five years ago in Peter Hall’s superb production its revival this year by Lynne Hockney is sheer joy.
Performances continue on various dates until August 28 — for details click here.