Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Jonathan Peter Kenny as Oberon and David Gooderson as Puck [Photo by Richard Hubert Smith courtesy of the English Touring Opera]
15 Mar 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by ETO

A silvery tree stretched its gnarled branches across the moonlit stage, and from the briar and bush spiky, feathered fairies wriggled and crept, intent on mischief and malevolence.

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Jonathan Peter Kenny: Oberon; Gillian Ramm: Tytania; Niamh Kelly: Hermia; Michael Bracegirdle: Lysander; Robert Davies: Demitrius; Laura Mitchell: Helena; David Gooderson: Puck; Nicholas Lester: Theseus; Lise Christensen: Hippolyta; Andrew Slater: Bottom; Martin Robson: Quince; Henry Grant Kerswell: Snug; Mark Wilde: Flute; Nicholas Merryweather: Starveling; Benedict Quirke: Snout; Abigail Kelly: Cobweb; Catrine Kirkman: Moth. Director: James Conway, Conductor: Michael Rosewell. English Touring Opera, Sadler’s Wells. Wednesday 10th March 2010.

Above: Jonathan Peter Kenny as Oberon and David Gooderson as Puck

All photos by Richard Hubert Smith courtesy of the English Touring Opera

 

Joanna Parker’s simple single-set design for this revival of James Conway’s thoughtful production was in some ways the star of the show. Bathed in ultramarine gleams, the twisted tendrils tripped and tangled the confused lovers; there would be no sweet dreams in this enchanted wood, just nocturnal nightmares and strange imaginings.

From the haunted shadows emerged Jonathan Peter Kenny’s Oberon, a haughty warlord, clad in black, strutting proudly and contemptuously through his midnight kingdom. Kenny’s timbre was sweet and eerie, but the perennial problem of balance in the duets between the fairy monarchs was not overcome, and Oberon – lacking power and clarity of diction – was somewhat overshadowed by his tempestuous Tytania. As the Fairy Queen, Gillian Ramm’s bright voice shone, matching the shimmers of her silvery gown. The brilliance of her upper range pierced like a moon beam through the night sky, and it was no wonder that that beauty of her chain of falling thirds, ‘I how I love thee’, won the ass-headed Bottom’s heart.

The four lovers all gave solid individual performances, but there was little dramatic distinction between them – perhaps this is an inherent weakness of the score, for the lovers often share the same predominant melodic material, rising and falling scales. Most impressive was Robert Davies as Demetrius; he used both the words and vocal colour effectively to establish character. Niamh Kelly (Hermia) and Laura Mitchell (Helena) were tidily matched, and Michael Bracegirdle conveyed the yearning and urgency of Lysander’s passion.

The final act often lacks the intensity of the night-time meanderings of Acts 1 and 2, so it was pleasing here to see coherence maintained. For once, the rude mechanicals’ amateur dramatics did not feel like a redundant add-on, a gratuitous send-up originating from Peter Pears’ drag impersonation of Joan Sutherland. The pace was well-sustained, physical movements deftly choreographed, and the lunacy of the proceedings kept just the right side of farce. Andrew Slater, as Bottom, sang warmly and surely throughout, while Mark Wilde (Flute) demonstrated confident comic timing and a sharp awareness of the impact of small gestures, musical and dramatic. Mayhem was balanced by majesty, Nicholas Lester’s Theseus and Lise Christensen’s Hippolyta injecting some solemnity into the proceedings. Similarly, the arrangement of the lovers at the foot of the performing platform, and their involvement in the concluding dance, lent an air of harmony and unity to the scene.

The fairies were less successful. Owing to the exigencies of touring, four young female sopranos were joined by a countertenor, and supplemented by eight local boys and girls. A little uncertain and hesitant, this mixed voice medley could not recreate the uncanny, ethereal timbre of a band of goblin brothers. In contrast, David Gooderson’s Puck was assured, his spoken text expertly and chillingly delivered. Just one query: why did he spend the evening with his arms taped to his side?

Andrew-Slater-and-Gillian-R.gifAndrew Slater as Bottom and Gillian Ramm as Tytania

In this opera, so much depends on the orchestral fabric, and it was evident from the opening glissandi sweeps, that the instrumentalists, under the skilful baton of Michael Rosewell would expertly lull us into the world of dreams, shimmering and enticing us with colours of enchantment.

Lise-Christiansen-and-Nicho.gifLise Christensen as Hippolyta and Nicholas Lester as Theseus

At the final curtain, true love and clear sight were thankfully restored. Slipping his arms free from the ropes that bound him, Puck assured us that all was now mended: “Give me your hands if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.” The captivated audience was glad to oblige.

Claire Seymour

Jonathan-Peter-Kenny,-Gilli.gifJonathan Peter Kenny as Oberon and Gillian Ramm as Tytania

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):