A Midsummer Night's Dream Reviews

Review by Simon Ames of the Surrey Advertiser

Just about all the usual marker points that constitute modern opera were shaken and stirred in this amazing composition by Sir Benjamin Britten. He and Peter Pears together evolved the libretto by cutting William Shakespeare’s play in half and re-allocating some of the words to other characters. Britten insisted at the time that they had remained faithful to the original story, but there may yet be a continuing debate on the subject.

This is a tale of ‘faeries’ and the monarchy of fairyland. Britten’s atmospheric orchestrations are ingenious, even supernatural in character, while the vocal scores are some of the finest of his distinguished career.

Surrey Opera always show ingenuity in their stage sets. The design by Jill Wilson was simple, yet authentic and convincing. Clever lighting by Rob Callender added to the spectre of the magic of the forest.

The cast were certainly well prepared for the marathonic 3-hour performance. Feargal Mostyn-Williams sang and acted the counter-tenor role of King Oberon with regal qualities, well supported by Queen Tytania’s coloratura, well delivered by Colleen Nicoll. Simon Perry shone as the fleet-footed Puck. The rustics were typified by a domineering performance from Graham Stone as Bottom the weaver. Tim Baldwin was perfection as Quince the carpenter and others with memorable roles included Tom Kennedy as Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hannah Poulsom as Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons.

Within the large orchestra of 28 musicians, it was the harps, percussion and brass that convey the rusticity of the rustics. The energetic Jonathan Butcher combines the roles of stage and musical direction with considerable skill in both departments. Jonathan and company have positioned this seldom-heard opera as one of the finest achievements of Surrey Opera, greatly to the credit of all on stage.