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 Performances

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

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):