The Opera Blues

April 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , )

That’s what I have right now—the opera blues. Last night, I watched Benjamin Britten’s opera version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in 1981 at London’s Glyndebourne Festival with Ileana Cotrubas and James Bowman as Tytania and Oberon. Okay, “watched” is not accurate, because I had to fast forward through most of it. I just had to. I couldn’t take it.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no opera buff. But I’ve seen three operas performed live, and I like the spectacle and the music. I found this opera really difficult to watch. And it’s 2.5 long hours long. L-O-N-G.

I’ll fault the fairies… Oberon, mainly. He sings in a “countertenor” which means a very high voice. It was really weird for me. The fairies are very weird in general. They look like they’re straight out of Star Trek. I just couldn’t get into it.

This opera is sung in English, but I could not understand much of it, so I put the subtitles on (when I wasn’t fast forwarding). It follows Shakespeare pretty closely, although it skips over the whole first part of the play and shoots us straight into the forest. The colors are very muted, with everything shimmery-silver as if moonlit. The trees are played by humans, and it’s a bit of a shock to realize that, as it’s not obvious at first. The forest has a very other-worldly feel.

Other than Tytania and Oberon, the fairies are played by children. Puck (Damien Nash) is a child with flaming red hair (it literally looks like a flame) and he speaks his lines with a Cockney accent. He is impish and good in the role.

I enjoyed the rude mechanicals in this version. Bottom (Curt Appelgren) fits my image of the quintessential ass, and their version of Pyramus and Thisby is very homespun and funny.

I’d be interested to hear from any opera buffs; maybe I just don’t get it. Personally, I would not rush out to see this performed live.

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  1. Tue Sorensen said,

    LOL! While I can’t call myself an opera buff at this point, I am in fact trying very hard to get more into opera in general. I watch many opera DVDs and TV performances, have heard a lecture series on the history of opera, and I have always been a huge fan of the Magic Flute, which I hum tunes from almost constantly. I am also getting more and more into the works of Verdi, and recently went to a production of his Macbeth. I have also seen and enjoyed his Othello film, starring Placido Domingo. And in fact I am attending a production of Ambrose Thomas’ Hamlet opera later today!

    So while it will be some time before I am any kind of expert on opera, I do know a thing or two about it. And being a rabid Shakespeare nut, some time ago I naturally ordered the Britten Dream DVD. And let me tell you: I had EXACTLY THE SAME REACTION AS YOU! I couldn’t stand it!! I found it impossible to sit through, and I immediately gave the DVD to my mother, who’s apparently a bit more openminded, and happy to own it. But Benjamin Britten, I dare say he’s a very, *very* acquired taste! 🙂

  2. Fluffisimo « Or What You Will said,

    […] cute and a little bit sweet. Granted, it’s fluffisimo, but it’s way more watchable than the opera. Berke (Ben Foster) is dumped by his girlfriend Allison (Melissa Sagemiller). In an effort to win […]

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