Lyric Opera premiere of Benjamin Britten's Shakespearean fantasy, A Midsummer Night's Dream - Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera premiere of Benjamin Britten's Shakespearean fantasy, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Press Release Letterhead
For Immediate Release:
Friday, October 29, 2010

 

Midsummer – in November??
It’s not global warming, it’s the Lyric Opera premiere
of Benjamin Britten’s Shakespearean fantasy,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
in a new production at Lyric Opera of Chicago Nov. 5 - 23

Starring David Daniels, Anna Christy, Peter Rose,
Erin Wall, Elizabeth DeShong, Shawn Mathey, and Lucas Meachem

Also featuring Chicago actor Esteban Andres Cruz as Puck
and, as the fairies, members of Anima – Young Singers of Greater Chicago,
plus a canine cameo by Kiowa, a black lab-retriever mix
from Canine Companions for Independence

 

What a tangled web they weave! The amusingly intermingled lives and loves of fairies and mortals will be played out onstage at the Civic Opera House Nov. 5-23 when Lyric Opera of Chicago presents a sparkling new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespeare-inspired opera by Benjamin Britten.

Arguably Shakespeare’s most popular comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was adapted with consummate brilliance by the composer, who collaborated with Peter Pears to substantially reduce the original text while retaining the story’s essentials and Shakespeare’s exact words.

Each major group – the fairies, the lovers, and the rustic comedians – are all memorably characterized. Most of the opera takes place in the forest, where many lives intertwine in amusing and touching ways.

Figuring in the plot are the jealous Oberon, king of the fairies (countertenor David Daniels); Tytania, his ravishing queen (soprano Anna Christy); the weaver Bottom (bass Peter Rose), the bellows-mender Flute (tenor Keith Jameson), and the joiner Snug (bass Wilbur Pauley), who are rehearsing a play intended for the nuptials of King Theseus (bass-baritone Craig Irvin) and Queen Hippolyta (mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, debut); and two lovers, Lysander (tenor Shawn Mathey, debut) and Hermia (mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong), fleeing Athens together because her father, King Theseus, insists that Hermia marry Demetrius (baritone Lucas Meachem). Their attempt to flee is thwarted by Demetrius – who loves Hermia as well – and by Helena (soprano Erin Wall), who loves Demetrius. Additional rustics are carpenter Quince (bass Sam Handley), tailor Starveling (baritone Paul Scholten), and tinker Snout (tenor James Kryshak, debut).

The Jeff Award-winning Chicago actor Esteban Andres Cruz (debut) plays Puck, the mischievous fairy whose misfired attempts to do Oberon’s bidding result in the plot’s many comedic twists. Members of Anima – Young Singers of Greater Chicago portray the fairies, including four with solo roles; they have been prepared by Emily Ellsworth, Anima’s artistic director.

Shakespeare’s play refers to the character Starveling having a dog; a handsome black Labrador-golden retriever mix named Kiowa will make his stage debut in the Lyric production. (Kiowa was bred and trained by Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that places highly skilled assistance dogs with people with disabilities.)

The conductor for A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Rory MacDonald (debut), and the stage director is Neil Armfield, with sets and costumes designed by Dale Ferguson and lighting design by Damien Cooper, both making Lyric debuts. Denni Sayers is choreographer and associate director. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the third Britten work produced by Lyric Opera, following triumphant presentations of Billy Budd (U. S. professional stage premiere in 1970, new production in 2001-02) and Peter Grimes (1974, 1977, 1997-98).

“This is a comic masterpiece, an incredibly successful adaptation of the Shakespeare play,” says William Mason, Lyric’s general director. “Neil Armfield, who gave us a brilliant Sweeney Todd in 2002-03, is directing this charming and visually lovely coproduction with Houston Grand Opera and Canadian Opera Company. Oberon is a signature role for the leading countertenor of our time, David Daniels, whom our audiences adored in Julius Caesar; and Peter Rose is a priceless Bottom. Anna Christy, and Lyric’s own Erin Wall and Elizabeth DeShong, both alumnae of the Ryan Opera Center, are all ideally suited to their roles.”

The Lyric Opera premiere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed in English with projected English texts. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m., except for matinees at 2:00 p.m. on Nov. 5, 8, 10, 13 (mat), 17 (mat), 20, 23. A free pre-opera lecture starts an hour before each performance in the Ardis Krainik Theatre.

Generous sponsors for this new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow.

The Nov. 5 opening-night performance will air on 98.7WFMT and www.wfmt.com beginning at 7:15 p.m., with WFMT’s George Preston as host and Lyric dramaturg Roger Pines as commentator. The Matthew Bucksbaum Family is the generous sponsor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Bucksbaum Family Broadcasts through the 2011-12 season, with generous matching funds provided by The Crown Family and Richard P. and Susan Kiphart.

For production photos, please contact Carrie Napolilli after Nov. 3:  312-827-5923 or cnapolilli@lyricopera.org 

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