A Midsummer Night's Dream        
Benjamin Britten

opera in three acts

composer: Benjamin Britten
libretto: Benjamin Britten / Peter Pears (based on Shakespeare's text)
worldpremiere: Aldeburgh 1960
company: De Nieuwe Opera Academie
conductor: Lucas Vis
director: Alexander Oliver
set, costume and prop-design: Fer Smidt (icw. Reindert Kruse,
Angela Schouten, Arianne Smidt)
lighting design: Alex Brok
choreographer: Danielle van de Ven
grime: Marjan van Geene, Sophie Ketting
production: Tamara Dirven
assistent designer: Wessel Boelen
graphic design: Arianne Smidt
photography: Hans Hijmering
set supervisors: Guus van Haastert, Nico Hoogzaad, a.o.
first performance: Kees van Baarenzaal, Den Haag, January 20th 2006




Magazine: Opera, May 2006

Netherlands, The Hague

"The OPERA ACADEMY scored another triumph with A Midsummer Night's Dream, a work that can be a minefield- I recall marvelous stagings of the play, but productions of the opera often disappoint. Not on this occasion, however: the entire cast sang and acted with total conviction. Alexander Oliver's concept of the piece was indeed magical, shunning exaggerated humour, psychologizing or sentimentality. Fer Smidt's sets and costumes were evocative, Alex Brok's lighting tasteful. Unfortunately I could catch only the first cast. Without implying there were any weaknesses among the rest of the singers, I certainly remember Richard Keen (Bottom), Eric Slik (Flute), Neil Baker (Demetrius) and Rea Fueter (Hippolyta). Gunther Vandeven was unusually dignified Oberon and Simone Riksman a delightful Puck, though her diction came and went…"






As twilight falls, fairies attendant upon their queen Tytania enter, followed by Puck, spirit attendant on the fairy-king, Oberon. Soon the royal pair arrives, separately, having fallen out. They argue, then Tytania and her fairies leave. Oberon sends Puck to find for him a certain herb that causes those upon whose sleeping eyelids the juice is dropped to fall in love with the next live creature that he or she sees. Next enter lovers Lysander and Hermia, forbidden by Athenian law to marry (she must wed Demetrius) and so fleeing the city together. They leave as Oberon enters to observe a second Athenian couple, Demetrius (in love with Hermia) pursued by Helena (in love with Demetrius). As they move off Puck returns with the herb, and Oberon instructs him to seek out an Athenian (meaning Demetrius) and anoint his eyes so as to make him fall in love with Helena. Next, a group of Athenian workmen enters, intent on casting a play they hope to perform before Duke Theseus. Most prominent among them is Bottom, cast as Pyramus in Pyramus and Thisbe. They agree to return later to rehearse. Now the mix-ups begin: Puck anoints Lysander's eyes, causing him to transfer his allegiance to Helena, while Oberon anoints Tytania's, causing her to fall in love with Bottom, whom Puck has mischievously given an ass's head. The four Athenians are hurled into violent discord; till Puck sends them to sleep and they wake up cured. Bottom too is eventually restored, Oberon and Tytania make their peace, and following the successful performance of Pyramus and Thisbe before his guests (whom we met earlier in the wood), they bless Theseus and his wife Hippolyta, and their house.