In order to stage this term’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Bristol Operatic Society received a substantial grant from the Britten-Pears foundation. Having just attended the opening night, I can attest that this was indeed money very well spent and a good testament to why this country needs to continue to invest money in young talent.
It would be easy to write a review of opera and concentrate solely on the voices. As it was, one of the best things about this production was how high a standard was kept across all departments. The costumes in particular, and especially the make up, were wonderfully elaborate and of the kind of woodland punk style that Johnny Depp would probably approve of. The fairy servants all had costumes that looked just the right side of wrong, my favourite being Mustardseed who appeared to have gleefully raided the dressing up box a little too enthusiastically.
Additionally, the fluro-forestry stage setting was very well done in that it was immediately compelling, but also simplistic enough to not remain distracting throughout. The continuation of the UV colouring and effects into the costumes, such as in the body art on Puck’s back, was an obvious display of the thought that had gone into integrating all elements of the production.
The only moment at which this integration became slightly too much was with the amplification of the orchestra. At times, it was marginally difficult to hear all of the vocals (in particular the slightly higher female ones) above the sound of the instruments. Being as the orchestra was to almost all purposes, superb, this was not too awful a set of affairs, although I would recommend a slight adjustment for future performances.
Out of all the cast, the performers of Bottom and Peter Quince were notable for combining very strong singing with great acting and good comic timing. Both portrayed stock characters – the harassed director and the egotist actor – with originality and genuine hilarity. I look forward to seeing this potentially outstanding double act at the Edinburgh Fringe later this year.
Overall then, I greatly enjoyed this production. It was a lovely demonstration of young talent combining with real ambition (I mean, most people don’t attempt to attend an opera, let alone stage one). This morning my boyfriend said ‘I bet those people [the performers] are feeling nervous today!’ and indeed in the third act one could detect a the relaxation that comes with knowing you have got two thirds through without anything going wrong. Tomorrow night the cast should walk on confident in the knowledge that they are doing something very right.