Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Robert Carson’s <em>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</em> at English National Opera
02 Mar 2018

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Robert Carson’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at English National Opera

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Christopher Ainslie, Soraya Mafi, Trinity Boys Choir

Photo credit: Robert Workman

 

Carsen's production debuted at Aix-en-Provence in 1991, was first given by ENO in 1995 and last performed by them in 2004, and for this revival, the cast featured the ENO Harwood Artists strongly. Christopher Ainslie was Oberon and Soraya Mafi was Titania, with Clare Presland, David Webb, Matthew Durkan and Eleanor Dennis as the lovers, Joshua Bloom was Bottom with Graeme Danby, Simon Butteriss, Timothy Robinson, Robert Murray and Jonathan Lemalu as the Mechanicals, Andri Bjorn Robertsson was Theseus and Emma Carrington was Hippolyta, with Milto Yerolemou as Puck. The conductor was Alexander Soddy, who is currently musical director of the Nationaltheater, Mannheim.

The forest in Carsen's production is the world of sleep and dreams, and beds feature heavily in Michael Levine's decor, and costumes give clear visual definition to the various groups in the opera, complementing the musical stratification which Britten uses to define his characters. There is a big cuteness element in the treatment of the fairies (the excellent Trinity Boys Choir) with their tailcoats, very formal manners and elaborate choreography (originally Matthew Bourne, revived by Daisy May Kemp). Perhaps the production does not dig very deep into the opera's psyche and is a little too keen to please, but it forms an excellent vehicle for such a revival with a large contingent of young singers.

Yet, A Midsummer Night's Dream was originally written for the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh, which seated just over 300 as opposed to the London Coliseum which seats over 2000. Like the recent productions of G&S at by ENO, there is a sense of Britten's opera having to be re-invented to fill the Coliseum spaces, and you felt that not all the performers in this revival had yet found their feet.

Christopher Ainslie looked superb as Oberon, tall and aristocratic with a slightly icy demeanour which works well with Britten's writing for the counter-tenor voice (as originally sung by Alfred Deller). But the tessitura of the role is rather low for a modern counter-tenor, and though Ainslie sang with a lovely warm timbre and flexible sense of line, his voice did not project with the sort of commanding grace which the role needed though having so much of the action up-stage did not help. Alexander Soddy's speeds seemed, at times, dangerously slow and Ainslie's 'I know a bank' was rather slower than was ideal.

By comparison, Soraya Mafi as Tytania had got the measure of the venue and projected the role's coloratura with personality and ease. She made a delightful Tytania, not as bitchy as some, and brought real charm to Britten's roulades and an underlying sense of humour in the scenes with Joshua Bloom's bottom. Given her fine performance has Handel's Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare for English Touring Opera, Mafi is clearly a talent to watch in this repertoire.

David Webb Clare Presland Matthew Durkan Eleanor Dennis.jpg David Webb, Clare Presland, Matthew Durkan and Eleanor Dennis. Photo credit: Robert Workman.

Clare Presland as Hermia, David Webb as Lysander, Matthew Durkan as Demetrius and Eleanor Dennis as Helena made a lovely, well-characterised group of lovers, clearly relishing the opportunities that the second acts confusions gave them. Each brought a nice sense of character to the role with Eleanor Dennis's rather uptight, blue-stocking Helena (who loosens up considerably), Clare Presland's spunky Hermia, David Webb's nice but dim Lysander and Matthew Durkan's bellicose Demetrius. In a smaller venue this would have worked very well, young voices singing roles just right for them, but in the Coliseum, an element of the drama did not quite cross the footlights and though it looked good, the singers' sense of engagement did not quite project. But this is something which will develop over the run.

Graeme Danby et al.jpgGraeme Danby, Simon Butteriss, Robert Murray, Timothy Robinson, Jonathan Lemalu and Joshua Bloom. Photo credit: Robert Workman.

With such an experienced group of Mechanicals, there was little danger of the drama failing to project here. Joshua Bloom made an engaging Bottom, well sung and nicely characterised with an arrogant swagger but without too much of the self-importance which can be a bit annoying. He had great fun with the suggestiveness of the donkey costume. The others were all effectively and colourfully projected, with Robert Murray's bashful Flute, Graeme Danby's officious Quince, Simon Butteriss's rather overlooked Starveling, Timothy Robinson's delightful Snout and Jonathan Lemalu as an engagingly dim Snug. They had great fun with all the comic business, and frankly, the only way to play the operatic send-up of 'Pyramus and Thisbe' is to play it to the hilt, which they did.

Andri Bjorn Robertsson and Emma Carrington made a noble looking Theseus and Hippolyta, joining with the lovers in the third act to make terrible fun of the Mechanicals.

Miltos Yerolemou.jpgMiltos Yerolemou and Christopher Ainslie. Photo credit: Robert Workman.

Miltos Yeremolou made a very funny Puck. A very physical performer, sometimes you wondered whether it was a little too much, should the production be quite as funny as that. But then, Carsen's overall conception does not really mine the darker side of the opera, and I rather longed for something which sat between Carsen's cuteness and Christopher Alden's dark dystopian view.

The Trinity Boys Choir performed admirably as the fairies, dealing admirably with the complexity of the staging along with Britten's music. The four young soloists, Aman de Silva, Lucas Rebato, Caspar Burman and Dionysius Sevastakis made a fine quartet of solo fairies.

Conductor Alexander Soddy, making a rare appearance in the UK, brought a great sense of detail to Britten's score and drew out some lovely and evocative textures from the players. The opening string glissandi were simply magical, but on occasions, Soddy seemed to rather linger too long over lovely details. In what is quite a long piece, you wanted a bit more dramatic impetus.

This was a revival which you feel needs a little more time to come into focus, but it presents a welcome opportunity to hear five of the current ENO Harewood Artists alongside other young singers, complemented by a fine group of Mechanicals.

Robert Hugill

Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Oberon - Christopher Ainslie, Tytania - Soraya Mafi, Puck - Miltos Yerolemou, Hermia - Clare Presland, Lysander - David Webb, Demetrius - Matthew Durkan, Helena - Eleanor Dennis, Quince - Graeme Danby, Bottom - Joshua Bloom, Starveling - Simon Butteriss, Snout - Timothy Robinson, Flute - Robert Murray, Snug - Jonathan Lemalu, Theseus - Andri Bjorn Robertsson, Hippolyta - Emma Carrington; Director - Robert Carsen, Conductor - Alexander Soddy, Associate director - Emmanuelle Bastet, Designer - Michael Levine, ENO Orchestra, Trinity Boys Choir.

English National Opera, Coliseum, London; Thursday 1st March 2018.

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):