Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Opera

POPPY GOODHEART is enraptured by her first operatic experience.

Opera Shadwell St. Giles'


Thursday 25th – Friday 26th, 8.00 at St. Giles Church.

Directed by Jack Furness and Imogen Tedbury. 

I know nothing about opera. All I thought I knew was that I wouldn’t enjoy it. But, as I flicked through the program before the lights dimmed I learned a little bit about the Shadwell Opera company and discovered, with a sigh of relief that this operatic version of Shakespeare’s classic was in English, with the aim of being both refreshing and accessible for young audiences. If I was ever going to enjoy an opera, it would be this one.

The setting of St Giles Church was truly stunning; with its obvious acoustic and ascetic advantages combined with imaginative use of the aisle and transepts for staging techniques. The play itself began in a suitably atmospheric style, with blue backlighting framing the chorus of nymphs, their netted costumes and mirrored palms playing against the smoky haze of the lights beautifully and all moving to the ethereal melodies of the Shadwell Orchestra. 

The entrance of Oberon (Tom Verney) with his striking countertenor voice immersed the audience fully within the mysterious forest setting of the beginning of Britten’s opera, which cuts the majority of the original first Act. This opening focuses the audience’s attention on the forest of fairies, nymphs and spirits, allowing you to sink into this dream-like world and view the forest as a character within itself. The bridal entrance of Tytania (Maud Miller) and the subsequent scene between the King and Queen of the Fairies was truly astounding, the voice of Tytania being of particular note. Although the singing was faultless, the entrance of the four ‘post-festival’ mortals into the forest jarred me slightly, perhaps in the way intended, but nevertheless I feel the girls particularly were hard done by in the costume department. 

Both the acting and singing was of an incredibly high standard throughout and the suitably overplayed ‘players’ of Shakespeare’s famous ‘play within a play’ were all wonderful, in particular the comically plumped Bottom (Tristan Hambleton) and the curvaceous Flute/Thisbe (Matt Sandy). However, the true show-stealing performance was undeniably that of Puck (Ssegewa-Ssekintu Kiwanuka) whose charismatic presence, perfectly pitched voiced and deliciously devious grin meant you couldn’t look anywhere else when he was on stage.

All in all a truly magical interpretation of a classic, and even if I never see another opera again, I am very glad to have seen this one.

See The Tab's preview photos here.