After the distinctly
variable experience of the Zürich Meistersinger
a couple of days ago at the South Bank, what
a relief it was to see and hear an opera production
that had life positively bursting out of it.
With superb vocal contributions from just about
all concerned and an ENO orchestra that for
once sounded inspired by Paul Daniel, this is
a production that reminds one just how high
standards at ENO can be (the only recent production
of equivalent standard I have heard this season
was the Gilbert and Sullivan Mikado).
is the second revival of Richard Carsen’s
1995 Production, here impeccably directed
by Emmanuelle Bastet. In a strong cast, the
stars were Robin Blaze’s green-haired countertenor
Oberon, Peter Rose’s Bottom and Emil Wolk’s
is no easy part. If Blaze lacked some of the
confident authority this role demands (and
was in the earlier stages drowned easily),
his assumption grew in stature until one was
finally drawn into his portrayal. Yet he was
never truly regal, only really touching on
this aspect of his character when he punishes
Puck. Blaze’s Oberon seemed strongest right
at the very end, where in combination with
his Tytania, magic was indeed woven.
Tytania was near-perfect, however. Sarah Tynan,
who joined the ENO Young Singers Programme
this season, made her role debut (she gave
a characterful Pappagena
earlier in the season), and she was a complete
success, her infatuation with Bottom a miracle
of sensual quasi-bestiality. Tynan’s pitching
is absolutely spot-on, her tone light yet
not in any way insubstantial.
of course, is an essential ingredient for
any Dream. While I have seen cheekier
on the Shakespearean stage, the versatile
Emil Wolk was as nimble as any, making inroads
towards the audience (space was used fully
in this production, including the stalls on
Richardson’s set-piece, ‘I am your spaniel’
(Helena) managed to be simultaneously funny
and lyrical (this is Richardson’s first Helena).
Alfred Boe as Lysander was on the weak side
initially (this was his ENO debut), but redeemed
himself in his Act 1 duet with Hermia (Victoria
Simmonds). Peter Rose (Bottom) demonstrated
not only impeccable comic timing, but a truly
clear, focussed voice. Perhaps only Leigh
Melrose’s Demetrius was slightly weak, while
Leah-Marian Jones’ Hypolita was a bit on the
few caveats then. The children could have
had more confidence at the start (they were
under-powered), but the fact is that this
opera plays to ENO’s strengths, that of a
true ensemble, a real company. Nowhere was
that better demonstrated than in the bumpkinesque
play-within-a-play, ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’,
where tomfoolery reached a climax, the characters
playing off each other superbly (Snout’s lion
– Robert Burt doing the honours – was delightful).
Clive Bayley, who has disappointed in the
past, gave a funny Snug.
orchestra excelled itself (and proved that
its strings can play with a great deal of
warmth - the opening of Act II proved this
beyond doubt). Britten’s difficult trumpet
lines were despatched with much aplomb.
is one of the best things I have seen at ENO
for a long time, outranking even the recent
Mikado. Do go.
with Alfred Deller, Heather Harper etc. Decca
425 663-2 (recorded 1966)
(Bottom) & Sarah Tynan (Tytania) -
from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'