Awe-inspiring music around the countryby Neil Norman / July 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Glyndebourne Festival, 11th to 28th August
Peter Hall’s 1981 production of Benjamin Britten’s opera was spellbinding. Clearly built to last, it has weathered the caprices of subsequent interpretations, including Christopher Alden’s despised “paedophile” version in 2011, to emerge as a landmark opera production. Sensitive to Britten’s gorgeous score that folds with ease mysterious musings into yearning romanticism and robust humour, Hall turned the forest into an Elizabethan fantasia, complete with “living” trees, luxuriantly spangled fairies and a flying Puck. Nor did he turn the raucous humour of the Rude Mechanicals into caricatures but invested their amateur efforts with heart and a spirit of generosity.
Britten wrote the opera in under a year—fast by his standards—for the opening of the 1960 Aldeburgh Festival and the newly refurbished Jubilee Hall. It was hailed as a major operatic achievement on its debut. Seasoned with musical references and satirical homages from Baroque to Donizetti and Schoenberg, it is that rare thing—an opera-lover’s opera that can also be enjoyed by neophytes. Hall’s richly entertaining and psychologically fertile production set the bar for Britten’s fabulous work. It has yet to be surpassed.