Lyric A Midsummer Night's Dream Review - Captivating Characters Cut to the Chase

Suspend your disbelief and come to Lyric Opera for the intriguing, charming experience of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Better yet, come an hour early for the excellent FREE pre-opera lecture to prepare yourself for all that is about to unfold before your eyes and ears. For about 3 years, the lectures have provided an outstanding way to get an insider's point of view and maybe even a "heads up" on details of the production that you may very well miss.  And, since it's right before the performance, you'll be ready to sit up and take notice. 

Today, our lecturer, Jesse Gram, Audience Education Manager, told us about "the first opera of the season where no one dies." With his tongue still in cheek, he filled us in on many other aspects of the dream we were about to see. We especially appreciated the fact that, when he described the musical mood of the overture, it was played for us.

When we saw The Marriage of Figaro, to our delight,  Carl Grapentine of WFMT lectured--it's his favorite opera.  He, too, gave us his unique, well-informed, wry perspective on the opera. It's a treat to learn from a pro and I highly recommend the pre-opera lectures.

Midsummer Night's Dreamscape

What did we see?
Director Neil Armfield
calls it "The Eternal Dream." That stunning set, complete with the slippery veil of sleep that connects the pulsating walls designed by Dale Ferguson and mysteriously lit by Damien Cooper, visually reprises the slithery strings. A Midsummer Night's Dream 's environment is inside our heads.  It's our dream, populated by three groups: faeries including an army of child faeries from Anima-Young Singers of Greater Chicago, a troupe of rustics (with a dog!) who will put on another famous Shakespearean favorite, a play-within-a-play, and young lovers. The connecting force between the groups is the bumbling secret agent, Puck,  played acrobatically by  Esteban Andres Cruz, who never sings a note. In an opera. Remember, it's your dream.

Estaban Andreas Cruz and David Daniels

What did we hear?
Shakespeare's exact words.  Although Britten did not take every word of A Midsummer Night's Dream, he did some judicious editing (I think he could have done more. Three hours is too long.) instead of writing a new libretto.  In the middle of the 20th century, when Britten was in his prime, a lot of composers were questioning the very fabric of Western music and exploring new musical realms. There's plenty of evidence of this exploration here but the music matches the mood of the piece. For starters, the overture sounds like a low snore.  The music is very warm, soft.  A celesta, a piano-like instrument, was introduced to help carry this mood. The result is recitative-like, dream-like. There are no catchy musical phrases you will hum on the way home, but when have you played back the score of one of your dreams?

David Daniels

What's the dream?
Armfield puts it succinctly, "It's a dream about a dream and a play about putting on a play." There's the enchanted forest, turned topsy turvy by a squabbling god, David Daniels and goddess, Anna Christy.
There's two lovers, Elizabeth DeShong and Shawn Mathey, trying to elope.

Elizabeth De Shong and Shawn Mathey

There's the rejected suitor, Lucas Meachem, in hot pursuit.  There's the scorned woman, Erin Wall, pursuing him.

Lucas Meacham and Erin Wall

And, as if that's not enough--of course, it's not enough! this is Shakespeare, opera and a dream!--some rather thick "rustics, " including the "mulish" Peter Rose, who get hilariously involved.

Anna Christy and Peter Rose

Was it fun? YES! It's a dream, not a nightmare. Go to and order your tickets today. A Midsummer Night's Dream closes on November 23.

Photos: Dan Rest

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