Music by Benjamin Britten
Libretto adapted by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears from William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream
April 14, 16, 22, 2016, at 8 pm
Sunday, April 24, at 2:30 pm
The Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.
In English with English surtitles
Pre-performance talk 1 hour before curtain
The performance is approximately 3 hours, including 2 intermissions.
Above: Scenes from Pacific Opera Victoria's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with David Trudgen, Suzanne Rigden, Daniel Ellis, Brian Bannatyne-Scott, Lawrence Wiliford, Bruce Kelly, John Brancy, Betty Waynne Allison, Lauren Segal, Adam Fisher, Susan Platts, Stephen Hegedus, Giles Tomkins, Andrew Erasmus, Kaden Forsberg, Daniel Yaxley, Pierce O'Brien, Sebastien Leroy, Cameron Little, Nate Ingram. Timothy Vernon conducts the Victoria Symphony; Giuseppe Pietraroia directs the Pacific Opera Victoria Children's Chorus. With Director Tom Diamond, Production Designer Judith Bowden, Lighting Designer Bonnie Beecher, and Projection Designer Cameron Davis..
Review Vancouver on A Midsummer Night's Dream
Elizabeth Paterson of Review Vancouver reviews POV's production.
It is a beguiling production ...
it is one of the wonders of this work that Britten could take a dramatic, poetic text replete with a dazzling array of changes in metre, rhyme and prose and turn it into complex, operatic, inventive music without losing the feel of the original...
Timothy Vernon conducted with a sense of purpose and overall design and unity doing full justice to Britten's art. Read more.
Patience rewarded in Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream
Times Colonist Review: Adrian Chamberlain reviews POV's production of the opera.
Some sequences are astonishingly beautiful ... the fairy-land boys' choir, clasping glowing orbs, capering mysteriously; Tytania ... in a glittering black-cape/blue-silver gown ensemble that recalls Cruella de Vil; Bonnie Beecher's magical snow/star projections on the giant gauzy drapes that dominate the set ...
The music hugs the lyrics (lifted directly from Shakespeare's play) with astonishing finesse ... Britten uses sound like a watercolourist. His orchestration is intricate, delicate and layered. Highly original and sometimes cinematic ... Read more.
How A Midsummer Night's Dream director tasted reality
Times Colonist Preview: Adrian Chamberlain interviews director Tom Diamond, who is well known for his role on the award-winning reality TV series Bathroom Divas – a show that took opera seriously while having fun with it. They also chat about how Tom became an opera director and about the challenges and delights of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Diamond particularly admires how cleverly Britten and librettist Peter Pears distilled Shakespeare's play into a cohesive work that succeeds dramatically and musically.
"They kept all the good stuff ... and turned it into this amazing opera." Read more.
Pacific Opera Victoria presents A Midsummer Night's Dream
Victoria News Preview: Jesse Laufer of the Victoria News talks with Toronto theatre artist Daniel Ellis, who takes on the role of Puck in this, his first opera performance.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays ... Puck is a really fantastic fun role. He is a fairy servant and a little mischievous trickster, and I identify with that myself in some ways. Read more.
A magical evening of Shakespeare casts a spell on Victoria
Nexus Preview: Oriana Smy of Camosun's Student Newspaper Nexus, interviews director Tom Diamond.
The well-known comedic tale of crossed lovers invites an entry-level audience to the opera ... "It's the kind of opera you can bring your kids to," says Diamond. "We may be able to truly open the world up to the new opera generation." Read more.
Hand in hand, with fairy grace, Will we sing, and bless this place.
A spat between the king and queen of fairies spills into the human realm, creating a tangle of misdirected spells and misplaced love affairs. Sweethearts fall in and out of love with neither rhyme or reason, bumbling rustics try their hands at amateur theatricals with side-splitting results, and the fairies spread accidental chaos far and wide. Nothing is what it seems in this enchanting collision of worlds, as fairies, countryfolk, and moonstruck young lovers spin through a single magical night.
With Shakespeare's language and Britten's tone painting, this edgy fantasy is at once ethereal and hilariously down to earth.
With the Victoria Symphony and the POV Children's Chorus
As night falls in the woods outside Athens, the fairies gather. Oberon and Tytania continue a bitter argument over a changeling boy: Oberon wants the boy to serve him. Tytania refuses to part with the child and storms off.
Oberon sends Puck on an errand to collect an herb whose juice, when rubbed on a sleeper's eyelids, will cause him or her to fall madly in love with the next creature that comes into view. Oberon intends to use this magic potion on Tytania and force her to give up the changeling child.
Lysander and Hermia enter, vowing to elope so that Hermia can escape a forced marriage with Demetrius.
Oberon watches as Demetrius arrives, looking for Hermia, but pursued by Helena, who loves him desperately. Demetrius hurries away, callously telling the lovesick girl, I'll run from thee and hide me in the brakes, and leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
When Puck returns with the magic herb, Oberon takes a dose for Tytania and then instructs Puck to seek out Demetrius, whom he'll recognize by his Athenian clothes, and administer the rest to him so that he will fall in love with Helena.
A half dozen rustic tradesmen begin work on a play they intend to perform at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. There is some arguing: Flute doesn't want to play a woman; Snug isn't sure he can learn the lion's part, and Bottom wants to play all the roles. Quince, the self-appointed director and casting manager, hands out the parts and tells them to memorize their lines in time for rehearsal later that evening.
Lysander and Hermia, worn out and thoroughly lost, decide to get some sleep. Lysander has hopes that they'll sleep together (One turf shall serve as pillow for us both), but Hermia tells him to move further away. Puck arrives, and seeing a sleeping Athenian youth, administers the magic potion to Lysander.
Demetrius runs in, still chased by Helena, who stops when she sees Lysander on the ground. She awakens him, and with one glance Lysander falls madly for her and totally repents the tedious minutes he has spent with Hermia. Convinced he is mocking her, Helena leaves, followed by the amorous Lysander. Hermia wakes from a bad dream, finds Lysander gone, and heads off in search of him.
Tytania enters with her fairy attendants, who sing a lullaby as she falls asleep. Oberon slips in and squeezes the juice from the herb onto her eyelids, hoping she will to wake when some vile thing is near.
As the rustics congregate for their rehearsal, Bottom points out a number of problems. There's violence – a sword and a lion – so a prologue will be necessary to reassure "the ladies" that it's all just playacting. Then there's the matter of scenery and special effects: someone must depict the moonlight by which the lovers meet, and someone else must portray the wall through which they speak.
As the actors bungle their way through the rehearsal, Puck arrives and mischievously transforms Bottom's head into that of a donkey. The rustics flee in terror. The unwitting Bottom is left alone, and starts singing to himself to prove he's not afraid. Tytania awakes and, enthralled by Bottom's voice and appearance, summons the fairies to see to his every need (Be kind and courteous to this gentleman), then rapturously twines herself round him as they fall asleep.
Oberon is gratified to see Tytania so besotted with Bottom. He asks Puck how he has fared with the Athenian youth. Just then Demetrius enters with Hermia who, still unable to find Lysander, is accusing Demetrius of killing her lover. She leaves, swearing she never wants to see him again. Despondent, Demetrius lies down and goes to sleep. Oberon realizes that Puck has used the charm on the wrong man and sends him in search of Helena. Meanwhile Oberon pours the juice from the flower on Demetrius' eyes.
No sooner has Puck returned with Helena, still pursued by Lysander, than Demetrius wakes, sees Helena, and instantly is smitten with her. Hermia shows up, Helena reproaches her for conniving with the two men to humiliate her, and all four lovers turn on one another. Lysander and Demetrius proclaim their love for Helena and challenge one another to a fight; Hermia begs Lysander to explain why he has changed so, while he shakes her off. Helena accuses them all of mocking her. As they head off, still quarreling, Oberon scolds Puck and insists that he right the wrong. .
Eventually, one by one, the weary lovers fall asleep, and in one final attempt to get the spell right, Puck crushes the magic herb into Lysander's eyes.
It is early morning. Tytania, Bottom, and the four lovers are all asleep. Oberon, having taken the changeling boy, reverses the spell on Tytania and orders Puck to remove the donkey's head from Bottom. Tytania awakes and Oberon promises that the four lovers will be married at Theseus' wedding. He dances away with Tytania (Come, my queen, take hands with me, and rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.)
The four lovers awake, each happily paired off, Hermia with Lysander, Helena with Demetrius. Bottom wakes up, recalling the night's events as a very strange dream: I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was ... The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.
The rustics arrive, worried about Bottom's disappearance – for the play cannot go on without him. When Bottom appears, they welcome him and excitedly prepare for their performance (Let Thisby have clean linen; let not the lion pare his nails; eat no onions no garlic, no onions, that all may say: It is a sweet comedy).
As Theseus and Hippolyta look forward to their wedding, the four lovers arrive and Theseus gives them permission to marry.
The rustics arrive to present their play, titled A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus and his love Thisby; very tragical mirth. The audience members comment in amusement as they watch the performance – it is the tragedy of a young couple who whisper their love through a chink in the wall between their houses. When they arrange to meet, Thisbe is chased by a lion, Pyramus finds her mantle, believes her dead, and kills himself. She then finds his body and kills herself. The rustics portray all the parts – the lovers, the lion, even the wall and the moonshine.
Afterward, everyone heads to bed. The fairies come out and bless the palace and all who sleep within it (Hand in hand, with fairy grace, Will we sing, and bless this place.)
Puck has the last word:
If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended,
that you have but slumber'd here while these visions did appear.
Reading List from the Greater Victoria Public Library
Librarians from the Greater Victoria Public Library have offered to create book/music lists that tie in to POV performances. Thanks to Jennifer Rowan, Adult Services & Programs Coordinator, and to Hannah Mitchell for providing the following list for A Midsummer Night's Dream.
To borrow these materials, visit your library branch or go online at http://gvpl.ca
Britten's Opera, A Midsummer Night's Dream
POV's Keynotes Newsletter on A Midsummer Night's Dream
Libretto of the Opera (rtf file)
Wikipedia Article on the opera
Britten-Pears Foundation: The Britten-Pears Foundation was established to promote the musical legacy of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Here you will find many resources on Britten and his works. The section on A Midsummer Night's Dream includes digitized manuscripts of the opera and interviews with stage director John Copley and with Barry Ferguson who as a boy, portrayed the fairy Moth in the 1960 world première of the opera.
Music, Such as Charmeth Sleep': Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream by Christina J. Burridge
While a Renaissance drama grad student at UBC in the 70s, Christina Burridge spent six months in London buying standing room tickets to see Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras at the Royal Opera House at the height of their careers. Her enthusiasm for Benjamin Britten stems from seeing Jon Vickers in Peter Grimes in 1975. This inspired her to attempt to read music, without playing an instrument, even though Pacific Opera Victoria's Robert Holliston tried, unsuccessfully, to teach her piano. Since the 1980s she's written intermittently about music, food and wine for the Georgia Straight, Vancouver Magazine and other publications while pursuing a career in fisheries that also takes her to some of the great opera capitals of the world. Robert asked her to find this academic article on A Midsummer Night's Dream from 1981, and eventually she did.
Ms. Burridge's article, originally published in the University of Toronto Quarterly, Winter 1981/82 issue, is provided here with permission of the author.
Internet Shakespeare Editions has texts and facsimiles of the play, along with commentary and extensive resources, including discussion of the characters, articles, performance materials, and much more.
No Fear Shakespeare: SparkNotes provides the text of the play, side by side with a version in modern English, edited by John Crowther.
Schmoop's Resources: Discussion, analysis, quotes, quizzes, and more, geared for students and teachers.