The spring opera is upon us. Opening tonight through Sunday, the Eastman Opera Theatre will present Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” based on the Shakespeare comic play with the same title.

The opera, which consists of three acts, features a libretto written by Peter Pears and presents a world in which there are four groups of characters – the Fairies, the Lovers, the Royalty and the Rustics – all presenting different forms of love.

Images of destroyed industry and its ominous shadows will serve as a background to a world in which all life is dream-like and not yet forty years of age.

Director Steven Daigle, who is also an associate professor of opera at the Eastman School of Music, has chosen the post-apocalyptic rendering of this opera. The opera was originally premiered in 1960 at the Aldeburgh Festival in England.

In the EOT production, the place is still Athens, but the time is now 40 years following an apocalypse, the incarnation of which is not explained but implied by apish versions of plant life that may have followed a nuclear catastrophe.

The play takes place in the only time of day befitting such a world – from sunset to sunrise.

The characters sing and speak in Shakespearean English, as almost every word of Pear’s libretto is taken from Shakespeare.

The original Shakespeare play, written in 1595, has been remade into both movies and new plays.

“Shakespeare’s literary brilliance has survived the test of time,” Daigle said in a press release.

He added, “Likewise, Britten is considered one of the premier opera composers of the twentieth century. This production explores, in an intriguing way, the universal nature and the many facets of love as a necessary part of the human condition.”

Vocalist and master’s student Oliver Henderson, who will be performing the role of Demetrius in this production, comments

“I’ve had to get used to [Britten’s] idiom, and the way he depicts comedy, yearning and anger. It’s a different musical sensibility,” he said.

“Regardless of whether you’re used to 20th century tonality, you’ll find Britten uses a very unique combination of sonorities,” vocalist and master’s student Abigail Fischer said.

She will be appearing as Oberon this weekend. Both cast members also encourage audience members to study the action before attending the opera, as well as to see it twice if possible.

The singers in the cast are enjoying the music, as well as the challenge of performing this distinctive opera.

In contrast to many typical operas, the important lines in Britten’s opera are spread over a dozen singers of medium parts, rather than concentrated into two or three main characters. The singing is also heavily oriented toward small ensembles of singers, rather than only solos and choruses – one reason why this version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is rarely performed.

Having many equal parts makes it a little bit harder to bill a few big stars, as is often popular in professional companies, and the many collaborative roles require more preparation – in fact, some ensembles from Eastman’s cast began rehearsing as early as last December. This makes a setting like the Eastman School perfect for performing such a work.

There are two separate casts, each of which will perform twice. They will be accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonia, which will be directed by the music director of the EOT and Eastman professor Benton Hess. Additionally, members of the Eastman Children’s Chorus, part of the Community Education Division, will perform as a chorus of fairies.The opera will be performed at 8 p.m. April 3-5, as well as at 2 p.m. on April 6. Student tickets can be purchased for $5 online at www.ticketmaster.com, in advance at the Ticket Express located on East Avenue, or at the door.

Caltvedt can be reached at ecaltvedt@campustimes.org.



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