Glyndebourne staged the premiere of The Rape of Lucretia with Kathleen Ferrier cast as Lucretia and the following year premiered Albert Herring. Thirty four years then elapsed before another of Britten’s operas was staged. In 1981, Glyndebourne presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An acclaimed staging by director Peter Hall which has enjoyed 4 revivals since, it has frequently been described by critics, and the press alike, as the ‘perfect realisation of a fairy tale’.
Britten employed disparate musical styles and devices to depict the interaction of the fairy kingdom; the quartet of lovers, the Mechanicals and town tradesmen determined to make it in showbiz. He juxtaposes a wide variety of styles to create the various worlds in the play. Brash trombones clash with Elizabethan flourishes, tormented string sounds and tuned percussion evoke the mood of the dark forests. With the challenging vocal writing a combination of singing, sprechstimme and spoken word cleverly intertwine.
This recording from Glyndebourne’s 2006 Festival, and the most recent revival, is a remarkable production cleverly capturing both the callousness of Oberon’s trickery on Tytania, as well as beautifully conveying the sense of sexual freedom that Bottom experiences when encountering Tytania. The stars in this recording are numerous but without doubt Bejun Mehta’s Oberon is one of the greatest on record. Iride Martinez makes a notable UK debut as Tytania. The lovers’ quartet sing almost all of their scenes as an ensemble, and beautifully at that, with Kate Royal (as Helena) and Jared Holt (as Demetrius) making the most harmonious of couples. Matthew Rose is both a wonderful and beguiling Bottom and is at the very heart of this recording whilst not forgetting the perfect performance from the well drilled Trinity Boys Choir, and show stealer, the 11 year-old Jack Morlen as Puck.
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 01 - Introduction: The Wood ? deepening twilight / Over hill, over dale
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 02 - Oberon is passing fell and wrath
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 03 - Well, go thy way
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 04 - How now my love?
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 05 - Be it on lion, bear or wolf or bull
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 06 - Welcome wanderer!... I know a bank
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 07 - Is all our company here?
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 08 - Fair love, you faint with wand?ring in the wood
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1 - 09 - Through the forest I have gone
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 08 - When my cue comes, call me
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 09 - Have you sent to Bottom?s house?
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 10 - Now, fair Hippolyta / Change of scene: Theseus? palace
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 11 - If we offend, it is with our good will
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 12 - Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 13 - In this same interlude it doth befall
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 14 - O grim-look?d night, O night with hue so black
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 15 - O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 16 - You ladies, you whose gentle hearts do fear
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 17 - This lanthorn doth the hornéd Moon present
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 18 - Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 19 - Asleep, my love?
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 20 - Come, your Bergomask
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 3 - 21 - Now the hungry lion roars
18th November 2011
“Ilan Volkov’s lushly romantic conducting of Britten’s inventive score is exhilaratingly hot-blooded, but occasionally his enthusiasm runs away with him, leaving some of the singers overwhelmed. Bejun Mehta makes a commanding Oberon and Matthew Rose an endearing Bottom”
10th December 2011
“Even if the Sussex opera house missed a trick by not filming the last revival in 2006, the smell of the theatre still irradiates this audio recording from the same year. It picks up the stage noise but also the vibrancy of live performance and the superb quality of Glyndebourne’s ensemble: you can “watch” the opera in your mind’s eye, such is its perfumed potency.”
“this live [Dream]...will certainly transport even the most distracted listener over hill and over dale to the realm of the Fairy Queen....Mehta's Oberon is one of the main reasons for choosing this disc: his is by far the most powerful casting in this role since James Bowman...His Tytania is impressive too: Iride Martinez is a nightingale one moment, a true Queen of the Night the next...a delectable Dream.”
“Its number one strength is the imposingly sung Bottom of Matthew Rose. No mere buffo bass, he brings a proto-Wagnerian grandeur of voice to the role, together with a very un-Wagnerian sense of humour...The fairy kingdom is less memorably represented...Ilan Volkov proves a conductor in the best Britten tradition...Other CD recordings have better casts...but this one enjoys a rude energy of its own.”
“the performance boasts some fine singing. Bejun Mehta is a silky yet seductively threatening Oberon, Iride Martinex (Tytania) floats her high notes ravishingly, and Matthew Rose is an amusing Bottom...11-year-old Jack Morlen is a terrifically elfin-sounding Puck, and Ilan Volkov conducts with a fine sense of the score's strange charm.”
“Mehta's Oberon is the collectors' item...he sounds quite unlike any previously recorded Oberon, but his rich dark timbre does recall that of the role's creator at Covent Garden [Russell Oberlin]...If the occasional hint of an American accent intrudes, it serves only to underline Oberon's 'otherness'...a fascinating glimpse at another Glyndebourne classic which proclaims the festival's ethos while presenting unmissable contributions from Mehta, Rose and Volkov.”
Click here for alternative recordings of this work.