Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 3°C

min temp: -1°C

Search

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 11

PUBLISHED: 10:28 16 June 2017

Snape Maltings - home of the Aldeburgh Festival. Picture: PHILIP VILE

Snape Maltings - home of the Aldeburgh Festival. Picture: PHILIP VILE

PHILIPVILE.COM

Despite Shakespeare’s genius and productivity, relatively few operas based on his plays match them in quality. Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff are probably the best known of the successes but Benjamin Britten also scored a notable triumph with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, first performed in 1960. A new production, designed and directed by Netia Jones, opened this year’s festival with the first of four performances.

Like so much of Britten’s music, this production draws inspiration from the surroundings and history of the area and of Snape Maltings itself, particularly the energy and creativity of the Garrett family who owned and ran the Maltings for many years. For the appearances of the Rustics (Mechanicals) the backdrop represented a Victorian factory with wheels and pulleys springing into action.

The instrumentalists of Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra under Ryan Wigglesworth immediately captured the ethereal atmosphere with hushed and controlled portamenti from the strings. The bright, incisive singing of the boy fairies against a monochromatic sylvan background was highly effective. Sophie Bevan’s upfront Tytania was accurate and authoritative while Iestyn Davies’ Oberon was no less musical but rather more restrained. The four lovers were cast in the present day, Hermia in a rather jarring tartan. Clare Presland, Eleanor Dennis, Nick Pritchard and George Humphreys all sang with passion and spirit as their affections fluctuated. Matthew Rose, a dominant performer in any role, was admirably cast as Bottom and all Rustics judged their performances acutely, finding humour and pathos while avoiding any trace of bathos. Theseus and Hippolyta have a long wait for their entrance but Clive Bayley and Leah-Marian Jones made the most of their relatively extrovert parts. Jack Lansbury was an exuberant and athletic Puck, twisting, turning and somersaulting with aplomb.

Musically this was a performance of distinction with the exceptional playing of a demanding score by the orchestra receiving one of the biggest ovations. Conductor Ryan Wigglesworth never let the tempi sag and delightful details were comfortably audible while never obscuring the singers. Netia Jones and lighting designer Ian Scott created a striking array of pastoral and industrial scenes of different eras which fitted seamlessly into the action. An enchanting evening indeed.

Gareth Jones

Comments have been disabled on this article.

The 80s are officially back, with Fame The Musical coming to the Ipswich Regent later this year.

Film award shows seem to be losing favour with audiences. Arts editor Andrew Clarke wonders whether its because the audience for movies is changing and the Oscars and BAFTAs are reacting by rewarding the wrong films.

The Bury Festival is one of the cornerstones of Suffolk’s cultural calendar. Arts editor Andrew Clarke speaks to festival director Nick Wells and takes a look at the treats in store during this year’s 10 day extravaganza.

Talented students at Suffolk New College organised and filmed their own Jools Holland-style show showcasing some of Suffolk’s brightest talent.

The cast of new musical An Officer and a Gentleman has been revealed, featuring top West End talent.

Taj Mahal chef Sayid swaps the kitchen for the stage in The Chef Show, part of PULSE presents.

Weighing in at more than 60 dates between October and this June, The Sensational 60s Experience is just about the biggest show dedicated to the music of that decade. This time, the line-up is colossal, with six artists – three groups and three solo acts.

How to have a go at Winter Olympics sports in East Anglia

The Proclaimers are coming to the Ipswich Regent later this year.

Suffolk popstar Ed Sheeran arrives at BRIT Awards ceremony - wearing a wedding ring?

Most read

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24