Theatre Royal: Festival of Britten
World class opera company Opera North comes to Nottingham to celebrate 100 years since Benjamin Britten’s birth, bringing three fantastic productions to the stage of the Theatre Royal.
First up was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the popular Shakespeare play transformed for the operatic stage. The well known Elizabethan forest was gone, replaced by a futuristic set constructed of corrugated plastic and massive, suspended balloons.
The costumes matched the stage, with Oberon and Tytania dressed in silver sparkles, and the Athenians in 1960s get-up that regressed to stripy underwear for the majority of the performance.
Particular mention goes to Quince and his troupe of Mechanicals for their performance of Pyramus and Thisbe towards the end that had the audience in tears.
In stark contrast , Peter Grimes was next. Not as accessible to the non-opera goer as the previous night, this tells the story of a fisherman whose village turns against him after the death of his apprentice.
The staging made up for the slightly static nature of the opera: a giant fishing net suspended from the ceiling was art in itself, and served as the inn where much of the action takes place.
As heartbreaking as the tale is – Peter is eventually forced to scuttle his own ship – the mob scene detailing his hunt was spectacular. The chorus banded together with pitchforks, shotguns and chainsaws, culminating in an effigy being ripped apart in their fury.
Death in Venice concluded the offering, presenting Gustav Von Aschenbach – a German novelist – holidaying in Venice. He falls in love with an underage boy and the opera follows his growing obsession, before he contracts cholera and eventually dies.
Again, this is not the cheeriest subject matter (nor the most easy listening) but this was made up for by the flawless performance of Alan Oke playing Aschenbach. In addition, the inclusion of contemporary dance added an entertaining visual element to the opera.
With all three operas, the music was simply captivating and the flawless vocals of all involved more than made up for the slower moments. Maybe not ideal for the first time opera-goer, but for anyone with a developing interest these are a must see.