Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lorina Gore as Tytania and Joshua Tate as The Indian Prince [Photo by Jeff Busby courtesy of Opera Australia]
06 Dec 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opera Australia

Transplanting Britten’s Shakespeare opera to an Indian setting seems at first an illogical step by Hollywood director Baz Luhrmann.

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon: Tobias Cole; Tytania: Lorina Gore; Puck: Tyler Coppin; Theseus: Jud Arthur; Hippolyta: Catherine Carby; Lysander: Henry Choo; Demetrius: Andrew Moran; Helena: Lisa Harper-Brown; Hermia: Dominica Matthews; Bottom: Conal Coad; Quince: Richard Anderson; Flute: Graeme Macfarlane; Snug: Shane Lowrencev; Snout: Andrew Brunsdon; Starveling: Samuel Dundas. Opera Australia Children's Chorus. Orchestra Victoria. Conductor: Paul Kildea; Director: Baz Luhrmann (revival director: Julie Edwardson); Designers: Catherine Martin & Bill Marron; Lighting Designer: Nigel Levings State Theatre, The Arts Centre. December 4, 8, 11, 14, 16 & 18, 2010

Above: Lorina Gore as Tytania and Joshua Tate as The Indian Prince

All photos by Jeff Busby courtesy of Opera Australia

 

But the result made for a popular production. Dating from 1993 Luhrmann directed this long before his rise to fame but his flair for exotica and rich visuals was apparent even then. Luhrmann’s relocating of the story from ancient Athens to 1920s India cashed-in on the trend at the time for Bollywood movies and Indian inspired fashion and décor.

The world of Indian mysticism does, however, seem more suited to the mysterious world Britten creates in his score. These spirit beings are to be feared and to enter their realm should therefore be far more disturbing. Ravel did the same in L’Enfant et les Sortileges, his enchanted garden is an alluring but fearful place. So is Britten’s forest.

Having the fairies as Indian gods and the mortals as British Raj may confuse the text and storyline and Luhrmann’s tendency to keep the action busy often spoils the nocturnal, dreaminess of some of the music. An English bandstand set in a park somewhere in India in 1923 dominates the set. The roof becomes a platform where Oberon oversees his magical ministrations while on stage level there is a pond below the bandstand where fairies and mortals meet. The orchestra have been relocated from the pit to the middle level and, dressed in military band uniform, are constantly in view as are the subtleties and inventiveness of Britten’s score.

The loveliest of the opera’s scenes, where Tytania awakens to the transformed Bottom is beautifully done here. Lorina Gore’s increasing ecstatic and extravagant vocal lines float around Conal Coad’s trombone accompanied bellowing and braying as Bottom.

With his genial, rollicking bass, Coad leads the mechanicals in their three scenes with great success. In the guise of an army entertainment troop, the effect is straight out of an English Music Hall parody of Italian opera along the lines that Britten and librettist Peter Pears intended.

The quartet of lovers is superb. Henry Choo’s ardent and honey-voiced Lysander sounds very much in the British tenor tradition. Choo’s first scene with Hermia is beautifully sung. Even more so as he sang the repeated “I swear to thee” phrases running up and down a staircase! Lisa Harper-Brown’s plaintive soprano beautifully contrasts with Dominica Matthews’s mezzo in the famous squabble that, here, becomes a cat-fight ending with both splashing about in the pool. The physical prowess of Opera Australia’s singers often matches their vocal prowess.

The most physical performance of all is Tyler Coppin’s as Puck. Nobody seems to cast a boy in this part anymore as using an adult actor gives greater opportunity to create a character. With his small stature Coppin has the best of both worlds however, looking like an adult trapped in boy’s body. His slapstick performance contrasts nicely with Tobias Cole’s stealthy, almost sinister Oberon. Perched above the stage with waist length dreadlocks, white face, blue, clawed hands and backed by Britten’s melismatic music Cole’s performance reinforces this role as still one of the best in modern operatic literature for a counter-tenor.

MSDN_Australia_02.gifTobias Cole as Oberon and Lorina Gore as Tytania

In a sound-world all of its own, Oberon’s music benefited from Cole’s restrained performance. With their prominence on the stage Orchestra Victoria, lead by Britten authority Paul Kildea, were able to make every nuance of the fairies' scenes as well as the deliberately lumpen scenes for the rustics and their play.

This Midsummer Night’s Dream was a run-away success when first staged and, unlike any other production of a Britten opera, played to full houses. The production was so popular it was presented at the 1994 Edinburgh Festival. The sheer vitality of the playing, singing and production in this revival make any qualms about the logic of the setting fall away thanks to the hallmark ensemble work of this company.

Michael Magnusson

MSDN_Australia_04.gifTobias Cole as Oberon and Tyler Coppin as Puck

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):