Lovely music and production
D. Smith | Toronto, ON Canada | 02/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think Britten handled Shakespeare very well here, and I only wish he had set other Shakespeare plays into opera. The mechanicals were very funny and I thought the lovers quite convincing, though not teenagers. Britten seemed to trust children in his operas as his career went on; here the fairies are all children (except Oberon and Titania) and Puck is especially tricky as a little boy. I thought Cotrubas was a very effective Titania and wished that a recent production of the play I saw (not the opera) had such an imperious fairy queen. I was not crazy about the Oberon, but it was Britten's choice to have a high male voice for the part, for good dramatic reason, to stress his difference from humans; but I found the voice to lack power. Others have said they did not like the woods, but I found them quite magical and for me, they worked very well, giving a rustling magical forest feeling. The mechanicals are funny and their opera within an opera is silly and touching."
John L. Archer | Washington, DC | 01/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The London Philharmonic, the truly spectacular boy's voices, and some great opera singing show off the extraordinary brilliance of Britten's composition and make this recording a necessary part of a serious opera collection. But don't expect the same from the production. The sets and costumes leave much to be desired. None of the lovers look convincing, and the "moving branches" that constitute the forest make one think of Macbeth's Birnam Woods a bit too often! A "low budget" production can often work very well for live opera performances, but with zoom lenses on the cameras and a relatively large screen home theater, the flaws distract. I enjoyed some of the scenes more by turning away from the screen and just listening."
A weird and wonderful Midsummer Night's Dream
John L. Archer | 10/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fascinating record of the now legendary production of Britten's opera by Peter Hall at Glyndebourne. Staged after his hugely successful production of Cavalli's La Calisto, at the same house, he brought with him one of the brightest of it's young stars, the beautiful Romanian soprano, Ileana Cotrubas. Here as Tytania, she creates a sexy spitfire of a fairy queen, her plunging cleavage and "punk" coiffure and make up adding to the sense that Oberon and his queen really are from quite another world. Curiously, or perhaps not when one considers her love of England and "her house", Covent Garden, she interprets Britten's music with obvious understanding and characteristic perception and refinement. Of course her thrilling soprano is as rich and lovely as ever. James Bowman is the commanding looking Oberon, standing at least a foot over his queen, but contrastingly his voice is one of a pure toned counter tenor. All the cast perform with commitment and relish for the music, and Bernard Haitink conducts the London Philharmonic with his customary intelligence. Sir Peter's extraordinary vision and artistic confidence are wonderfully showcased in this magical production, designed by John Bury. Heartily reccomended to any musical or Shakespearean student or lover."
An Excellent Production
John L. Archer | 08/20/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This opera is a slightly shortened version of the Shakespearre play sung in English. It would be much easier to understand if it had subtitles or if you know the original play well. Britten's eery musical effects are super as are those of the staging. Some of the high points revolve around the boys choral singing and the weird effect of the fairy king/queen duos (James Bowman/Ileana Cortrubas). The humans are very good both in the difficult vocal lines and the acting to make them seem plausible. The acting and vocals of the rustics (especially Bottom) are really excellent even in the very difficult ensemble parts. My only reservations are that Britten's music is often difficult for my relatively untrained ear and that the diction and language cause some difficulty in understanding the text. On the other hand, for pure virtuosic singing, this is a wonderful example."