A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Review

Surrey Opera
reviewed by Jenni Balow

What a dream of an opening – a performance by Royal appointment and an exquisite sensory experience for an enraptured audience on a stage that glittered under a full moon at the end of a perfectly beautiful day.

In the morning the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall watched a short preview of this remarkable production that just got better as dusk finally fell on a shimmering set scattered with faery-dust.

The music and voices that enchanted our eyes and ears were conducted and directed by Jonathan Butcher and a remarkable production team.

The orchestra bathed our senses in sublime sound as they played this remarkable and individual score by Benjamin Britten, producing other-worldly tricky music that slides us in to a faery land and then out again, with unusually dissonant chords that were sweet all the same – how could that be?

Shakespeare’s libretto was adapted by Britten and Peter Pears, taking us into the faery world of Oberon (Feargal Mostyn-Williams). How clever of Britten to surprise and delight us with Oberon’s countertenor range – very high. Another touch of genius.

The entire cast sings supremely, led by Tytania (Colleen Nicoll) and notably Laura Cheetham as Helena, who joins Surrey Opera for the first time this summer, Helena Payne as Mustardseed and Graham Stone as Bottom, who really can do it all, alongside the merriest of rude mechanicals.

The spoken role of Puck was performed on the opening night by an agile 15-year-old, Laurence Read.

The music comes first of course, but set designer Jill Wilson, lighting designer Robert Callender and an understandably large wardrobe team, with hair and make-up girl Gina Granda, have got together to add to the magic.

Freelance designer Jill is in great demand. This season she has devised four very different and inventive sets, and for this, she gives us a rocky bank whereon the wild thyme grows and soft greeny pastels and wisteria.

This is matched by the most lovely costumes – floaty feathers, lace, tulle, soft damask, gilt and garlands, with sparkles from Gina, and tiny faery wings.

Altogether, this was a right royal experience!