Monday 23 November - A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Final Screening for this year
Ileana Cortubas – Tytania
James Bowman – Oberon
Felicity Lott – Helena
Cynthia Buchan – Hermia
Ryland Davies – Lysander
Dale Duesing – Demetrius
Curt Applegren – Bottom
Roger Bryson – Quince
Patrick Power – Flute
Damien Nash – Puck
Andrew Gallagher – Snug
Adrian Thompson – Snout
Donald Bell – Starveling
Lieuwe Visser – Theseus
Claire Powell – Hippolyta
Conductor –Bernard Haitink
Director – Peter Hall
London Philharmonic Orchestra
1981 2hrs 32’
The opera was written to inaugurate the recently enlarged and improved Jubilee Hall, in Aldeburgh for the 1960 Aldeburgh Festival. Britten and Pears themselves created the libretto from Shakespeare’s play and were proud that they only had to use one non-Shakespearean line.
After the failure of his coronation opera Gloriana Britten has shied away from “grand opera and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is scored for a relatively modest orchestra which deliberately evokes a more Baroque sensibility underlined by having the role of Oberon sung by a counter-tenor, a role written for Alfred Deller, the leading counter-tenor of the period.
This 1981 Glyndebourne production by Sir Peter Hall, and conducted by Sir Bernard Haitink is a classic of its period with an outstanding cast, including New Zealander Patrick Power as Flute.
Act One – Oberon, King of the Fairies and his Queen, Tytania, have quarrelled over an “Indian Boy” who Oberon wants but she refuses to give up. As revenge Oberon sends Puck to find a herb which when placed on the eyes of a sleeping person will make them fall madly in love with the next thing that they see.
Hermia and Lysander, two Athenian lovers enter. Hermia has been ordered by her father to marry Demetrius but she loves Lysander and the two have escaped from Athens and plan to marry somewhere where Athenian law doesn’t apply.
Demetrius enters looking for them. He is in love with Hermia and intends to take her back to Athens, following him is Helena who loves him but he tells her firmly that he can never love her.
Oberon has overheard all this, and when Puck re-enters with the herb orders him to place it on the eyes of the Athenian couple Demetrius and Helena so that they will fall in love with each other.
A group of local tradesmen enter to rehearse a play that they hope will be accepted to be performed before the Duke of Athens, Theseus, who is about to marry the Amazon queen Hippolyta. They sort out who is to play each part, with Bottom the weaver desiring to play them all, and agree to meet the again later to rehearse.
Lysander and Hermia enter tired and fall asleep. Puck mistakenly puts the juice in Lysander’s eyes. Demetrius and Helena also enter and Helena wakes Lysander who immediately declares his love for her. She runs away with Lysander following.
Tytania and her fairies enter and also settle down to sleep. Puck squeezes the flower’s juice on to her eyes.
Act Two – The “Rustics” return to rehearse spied on by Puck. When Bottom goes into the woods in order to make his “entrance” in the play Puck gives him the head of an ass, startled the others run away. The noise wakes Tytania who, according to plan, sees him and falls in love.
The lovers return and Oberon is furious that Puck has got the wrong man. Oberon then puts the juice in Demetrius’ eyes and when he wakes both men now declare their love for Helena. Hermia is distraught and the two women fight. Oberon orders Puck to lead the four lovers in to the woods and to put the juice on Lysander’s eyes again to restore the status quo.
Act Three – Oberon has acquired the boy and so frees both Tytania and Bottom from the spell. Tytania and Oberon are reconciled. The Rustics return and are overjoyed to find Bottom restored to them. The lovers are also reunited and return to Athens for the Duke’s wedding.
Back in Athens the Duke says that he will over-rule Hermia’s father and allow her to marry Lysander. The Duke agrees to see the “Rustics” play to the huge merriment of the audience. When it is done the couples retire and the Fairies enter to bless the marriages and the house. The last word is left to Puck.