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 BenedictReuse content