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Ensemble

Hauntingly beautiful

Britten's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
at the London Coliseum,
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL

 

Robert Carsen's production of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream is well travelled. Originally created for Aix-en-Provence, it has been re-created at the Ravenna Festival and in various venues throughout France besides at the Coliseum. The production was new to English National Opera in 1995 and this current revival is credited to Emmanuelle Bastet, one of Carsen's assistants.

Victoria Simmonds (Hernia) and Alfred Boe (Lysander) in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at English National Opera. Photo © 2004 Bill Cooper
Victoria Simmonds (Hernia) and Alfred Boe (Lysander) in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at English National Opera. Photo © 2004 Bill Cooper

The scene opens with a deep blue backdrop with just a crescent moon and most of the stage taken by a large platform laid out as a huge bed covered with a green bedspread. During the haunting opening sequence in the orchestra the fairies appear and turn back the covers of the bed to reveal two huge pillows. These will have various uses including becoming banks for the lover to sit and lie on, until finally one of the pillows is Titania's bed at the end of Act I. The bed theme remains consistent throughout the opera. Act II opens with the platform, covered in green cloth with two rows of beds -- Titania sleeping in one of them. By the end of this Act, Titania and Bottom are in one bed and each of the lovers is in a separate bed. Act III opens with three beds suspended in mid air, two containing the pairs of lovers and one containing Titania and Bottom. As the threads of confusion are resolved at this point, the beds descend. But, in a moment of startling transformation, when the scene changes to Theseus's court the three beds fly up, taking the green floor covering with it, leaving the platform bare white for the first time this evening.

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Copyright © 15 July 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK

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