Opera North’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The Theatre Royal

Opera North’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is everything you could hope for. Staying close to Shakespeare’s original play whilst performing some incredibly beautiful pieces of music, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is certainly something to try and catch.

Opera North is currently touring the country with their ‘Festival of Britten’, showcasing some of Benjamin Britten’s best operas with their highly talented cast. One of these productions is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a comedy involving magic, lovers, fairies and some workmen/actors. For many of us, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a well known play, whether studied at school or something you were dragged along to as a teenager, it’s one of Shakespeare’s more ‘approachable’ plays, due to it’s clear comedy and magical storylines.

Britten’s version takes many of these well-loved elements but adds a modern twist, even whilst using a form of theatre that has been around for centuries. For the opera newbie, this is a sure fire winner, mostly because it’s sang in English, unlike many of the classic operas out there. Also because the storyline is clear enough you won’t find yourself glued to the subtitle screens for extra help.

For the opera expert, there’s a reason this is one of Britten’s classics. The madness and magic of the plot allow for beautiful solos and stunning compositions.

An impressive eighteen children were cast to play Tytania’s fairy companions, all of whom brought an excellent stage presence, transporting the audience into the fairy kingdom whenever they were on stage. In addition, Jeni Bern’s performance as Tytania was spell-binding in itself, not only is her talent exceptional but she created a very elusive yet endearing fairy queen for the audience to watch.

The other stand out performance came from Sky Ingram as Helena, a character I’ve always related to (she’s very tall). I had high expectations and Ingram certainly met them. A comic performance was giving when necessary yet her solos also shared a great deal of emotion that reflected the intensity felt by all four of the lovers.

The storyline takes place in the space of one night, in a forest, yet Opera North used blue lighting, hanging fabrics and floating balloons to create an almost underwater setting.  At first this felt confusing, yet throughout the performance it became clear that this simply aided the audience to be transported into an ethereal, dreamlike world in which they could believe in the fairies and magic potions.

For many students, the opera isn’t the first point of call on a weekday, and that’s fair enough. But next time you have some spare time, and some spare cash, and fancy doing something different with your evening, I would strongly recommend Opera North’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.




Annie Macarthur

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