Preview: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Glyndebourne, East Sussex

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The Independent Culture

Peter Hall's 21-year-old production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream is the most durable favourite in the Glyndebourne repertoire. And its original cast was indeed a dream, with James Bowman in his prime as Oberon, and Felicity Lott in hers as the excitable Helena. The cast for the latest production includes Bejun Mehta as Oberon, Iride Martinez as Tytania, Matthew Rose as Bottom, and Kate Royal as Helena.

So what sort of challenge does the role of Helena represent? "In a sense, it's all done for you," says Royal. "She's such a great character, the most fully articulated of the four lovers. She's very charming but also desperately insecure, she thinks that everyone is talking about her behind her back - so when she suddenly has two men throwing themselves at her it doesn't even cross her mind that they might be serious.

"The vocal challenge", says Royal, "is a different matter. It's quite frustrating, because she hardly ever gets to sing a legato phrase. As she's always chasing after people, and as she's always out of breath, her vocal lines are very broken up. She sings three notes, then has to stop for a breather before carrying on. It's not until the final waking-up from the dream that she gets to sing a legato line." You can sense Royal's own foot-stamping impatience: "I have to wait two acts - and a very long interval - to do that."

She likes singing opera, and loves doing it at Glyndebourne, which she regards as the ideal young singer's training ground, but there are moments, she says, when she longs to be alone with her audience in a recital. She's a seasoned Wigmore recitalist, and EMI is about to release her debut disc.

I've caught her after a day-long technical rehearsal, during which she's done nothing but learn how to sleep convincingly, and how to wake up, "while poor little Puck has been learning how to get on and off a flying branch", says Royal.

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