Choice: Concert

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Barbican Hall, London EC1 (0171-638 8891) 7pm
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Indy Lifestyle Online
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Barbican Hall, London EC1 (0171-638 8891) 7pm

Quite apart from anything else, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears's adroit cutting of Shakespeare's comedy into this truly magical opera is quite masterly. It is extremely rare to find a theatre production which actually manages to balance the different plots of the lovers, the mechanicals and the fairies, but the operatic text and its setting makes everything dovetail to a remarkable degree. From the opening sliding string scales, there's an eerie sense of other-worldliness, accentuated by casting Oberon as a counter-tenor and Puck as a spoken role which cuts through the texture. Music isn't often funny, but it is here with Britten's word-setting at its wittiest. As with the play, there are huge comic opportunities in the Pyramus and Thisbe play at the end, which Britten turns into a pastiche opera-within-an-opera. Richard Hickox conducts tonight's concert performance with a cornucopia of British talent led by James Bowman.

David Benedict

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