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Britten Operas on DVD, Part 1

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Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Felicity Lott, Ileana Cotrubas, James Bowman, Dale Duesing, Glyndebourne Opera, London Philharmonic, Bernard Haitink (recorded in 1982, DVD release on July 27, 2004)
This classic Glyndebourne production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Peter Hall in 1981 with sets by John Bury, has been revived there several times, most recently just this summer ( Summer Opera 2006: "Midsummer Night's Dream," July 28, 2006). This staging may be good enough that Glyndebourne does not need to think about something a little more modern, along the lines of what David McVicar directed for the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels in 2004. What Britten created in this opera, premiered in 1960 at Aldeburgh, is the most perfect adaptation of Shakespeare into music ever conceived. Not only does he set Shakespeare's verse directly, and utterly effectively, he has captured the darkest side of fairy tales. Indeed, the creepy role of Oberon, sung here by legendary countertenor James Bowman, deserves the title Puck ascribes to him in the play, King of Shadows, who unleashes the confusion of the plot only because he desires the boy in Tytania's care.

The masterful orchestration in the score draws us so completely into the bizarre world of the fairies, with its tonally ambiguous harmonies and fragile, otherworldly sounds of celesta, glittering percussion, glissandi in timpani, strings, and trombones, and the fairy chorus of boys' voices. Also, this DVD was of great interest to Master Ionarts, who watched the whole thing with me. He particularly enjoyed the children as fairies ("Over hill, over dale, / Thorough bush, thorough brier"), Bottom as the donkey, and the red-haired Puck who often enters and exits flying on a vine. So, even though the subtext of the play (and Britten's interest in the story) might make this opera not seem quite right for children, the visual beauty of the production and the humor caught the attention of at least one four-year-old. (Master Ionarts also liked another 20th-century opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, for the same reasons.)

Kultur D1411

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