November 22 - Opera Matinée and Meet & Greet

On Sunday, November 22nd at 3pm, the matinée performance at the Grand Théâtre for Benjamin Britten's opera "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will take place.

AIC Members and a guest may purchase tickets for the Opera at a special reduction of 10% by presenting your AIC Member Card at the box office of the Grand Théâtre.

Following the performance at 6pm, the English-speaking cast of the Opera will meet us in the exquisite Foyer of the Grand Théâtre for an exclusive "meet & greet" with champagne and feuilletés. 

If you love opera and wish to be a part of this exceptional afternoon of entertainment, please purchase your tickets. We would expect all people participating to attend one of the performances.

In collaboration with the Grand Théâtre de Genève. 

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream: opera in 3 acts, music by Benjamin Britten (English; 1913 – 1976), libretto adapted by the composer and Peter Pears (tenor; his partner of 40 years) from William Shakespeare's play of the same title. Premiered  June 1960, Aldeburgh Festival, conducted by the composer. Stylistically, the work is typical of Britten, with a highly individual sound-world – not strikingly dissonant or atonal, but replete with subtly atmospheric harmonies and tone painting.

Britten's music moves on three planes, each with their own sound-worlds: fairies; mortals (lovers); and rustics. The work deal with several states: waking and sleeping; night and day; natural and supernatural. All (except the last scene) takes place in the woods, represented by slow-breathing string textures that rise and fall, used throughout the opera – a timeless place.

To turn a masterpiece in one medium into a work of similar calibre in another is a vast undertaking, and yet this is what Benjamin Britten succeeded in doing    Earl of Harewood, The New Kobbé's

 

Role    (# order of appearance)

Voice type

Grand Théâtre, GE, Nov 2015

Oberon, King of the Fairies(3)

countertenor

Christopher Lowrey (b. Johnston, Rhode Island)

Tytania, Queen of the Fairies (3)

coloratura soprano

Bernarda Bobro (b. Maribor, Slovenia)

Puck (2)

speaking role

Anna Thalbach (b. 1973, Berlin)

Cobweb, Mustardseed, Moth, Peaseblossom, fairies (1)

trebles

Young boys

Lysander, in love with Hermia (4)

tenor

Shawn Mathey (b. 1969, USA)

Demetrius, betrothed to Hermia (5)

baritone

Stephen Genz (b. 1973, Erfurt, Germany)

Hermia, in love with Lysander(4)

mezzo-soprano

Stephanie Lauricella (American)

Helena, in love with Demetrius(5)

soprano

Mary Feminear (b. Auburn, Alabama)

Theseus, Duke of Athens (7)

bass

Brandon Cedel (b. Charleston, SC)

Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus (7)

contralto

Dana Beth Miller (American, Texas?)

Bottom, a weaver (6)

bass baritone

Alexey Tikhomirov *

(Peter) Quince, a carpenter (6)

bass

Paul Whelan *

(Francis) Flute, a bellows-mender (6)

tenor

Sturart Patterson *

Snug, a joiner  (interior woodworker)(6)

bass

Jérémie Brocard *

Snout, a tinker (mends pots and pans) (6)

tenor

Erlend Tvinnereim (b. 1981, Bergen, Norway)

Starveling, a tailor (6)

baritone

Michel de Souza (Brazil)

Place: the forest and Theseus' palace             *Conservatoire populaire de musique de Genève.

Conductor of OSR: Steven Sloane                Production/Mise en scène: Katharina Thalbach

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream  of Britten - Grand Théâtre de Genève  -  New production

(French) Les opéras de Britten ouvrent les portes d’univers fort variés, mais s’il en est un qui sort du lot, c’est certainement A Midsummer Night’s Dream, rencontre providentielle entre la plume féérique de Shakespeare et la sensibilité musicale du compositeur anglais. Dans cette œuvre-clé du XXème siècle lyrique, on perçoit bien évidemment toute la dimension fantasque et onirique de la comédie shakespearienne qui, au fil des interventions du malicieux Puck, nous montre à quel point l’amour est de nature éphémère et improbable. Mais Britten fait encore plus fort : empruntant de ci et de là différents éléments à la grande tradition lyrique, il fait appel à un orchestre de chambre capable de mille métamorphoses qui dès le début de l’œuvre, symbolise le réveil de la nature, avant de reproduire à merveille l’atmosphère romantique du royaume des fées et celle grotesque des artisans athéniens. (GT)

(English) Benjamin Britten’s operas open the doors to many different worlds, but if one of them stands out of the lot, it is certainly A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the English composer’s felicitous merging of his musical sensitivity with Shakespeare’s pen, when dipped in fairy ink. In this essential work of 20th century opera, the fanciful and dream-like qualities of Shakespeare’s comedy are aptly rendered, thanks to the many interventions of the mischievous Puck, who demonstrates to what extent love is of a transient and bizarre nature. But Britten brings this to a higher level by employing many different elements from the history of opera and a multifaceted chamber orchestra that begins by depicting Nature’s awakening and then enters into a marvelous evocation of the fairy kingdom’s romantic atmosphere, as well as the more grotesque world of the rude mechanicals. (GT)

(From wikipedia, edited): The plot of the opera follows that of the play (basically, mischievous fairies, mixed-up lovers, and bumbling rustics), with several alterations (reduced by half, with some lines redistributed). Most of Shakespeare's Act 1 is cut, giving much greater precedence to the wood, and to the fairies. This is also indicated by the opening portamenti (i.e., slide or glide from one note to another) strings, and by the ethereal countertenor voice that is Oberon, the male lead, who throughout is accompanied by a characteristic texture of harp and celeste, in the same way that Puck's appearance is heralded by the combination of trumpet and snare-drum.

The opera opens with a chorus, "Over hill, over dale" from Tytania's attendant fairies, played by boy sopranos. Other highlights include Oberon's florid – the exotic celeste is especially notable – aria,"I know a bank" (inspired by Purcell's "Sweeter than roses"), Tytania's equally florid "Come now, a roundel", the chorus's energetic "You spotted snakes", the hilarious comedy of "Pyramus and Thisbe", and the final trio for Oberon, Tytania and the chorus.

The original play is an anomaly among Shakespeare's works, in that it is very little concerned with character, and very largely concerned with psychology. Britten follows this to a large extent, but subtly alters the psychological focus of the work. The introduction of a chorus of boy-fairies means that the opera becomes greatly concerned with the theme of purity. It is these juvenile fairies who eventually quell the libidinous activities of the quartet of lovers, as they sing:  "Jack shall have Jill/Naught shall go ill/The man shall have his mare again/And all shall be well." Sung by boys, it represents an idealized vision of a paradise of innocence and purity.

Britten also pays attention to the play's central motif: the madness of love. Curiously, he took the one relationship in the play that is grotesque (that of Tytania and Bottom) and placed it in the center of his opera (in the middle of Act 2). Women in Britten operas tend to run to extremes, being either predators or vulnerable prey, but Tytania is an amalgam; she dominates Bottom, but is herself completely dominated by Oberon and Puck. Their cruel pranks eventually quell her coloratura, which until she is freed from the power of the love-juice is fiendishly difficult to sing.

Britten parodied other opera conventions in less obvious ways than "Pyramus and Thisbe", the play performed by the rustics. Like many operas, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" opens with a chorus, but it is a chorus of unbroken boys' voices, singing in unison. After this comes the entrance of the prima donna and the male lead, who is as far away as possible from Wagner's heldentenors, and as close as it is possible to get to Handel's castrati of the 18th century: "There is an air of baroque fantasy in the music." Britten's treatment of Puck also suggests parody; in opera, the hero's assistant is traditionally sung by baritones, yet here we have an adolescent youth who speaks, rather than sings.

 

- compiled and edited by Robert Race

 

When?

Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015

3 p.m. - 7 p.m.

(GMT+0200) Europe/Paris

Event has ended

Where?

Grand Théâtre Genève

11 boulevard du Théâtre
Geneva 1204
Switzerland