Opera review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Theatre Royal, Glasgow

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Does Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream take undue time to gather steam? Or is just that Olivia Fuchs’ neon strip-light production – first seen at London’s Royal Opera House eight years ago, and restaged here by Fuchs for the joint forces of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Scottish Opera – doesn’t quite conjure up enough scintillating magic to cast a winning spell?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Fuchs, and her set designer Niki Turner, certainly go out of their way to contain Britten’s gossamer score within a concept that is confusingly messy, contextually unmagical, and as a result, presents the young singers of the RCS opera school with something of a challenge against the odds.

So, no, Britten’s music is not the issue, a fact substantiated by the wealth of fine singing that fills several meaty chunks of this production – Act 2 has the most potent atmosphere and depth – but ultimately loses out to the theatrical indiscipline of the opening and closing scenes, both of which need tighter choreography to sharpen the impact.

But out of all that come distinguished performances from Catriona Morison’s sensitive and velvety Hermia, Daniel O’Connor’s radiant Demetrius, and Andrew McTaggart’s strong characterisation of the idiot Bottom. And in the difficult coloratura role of Tytania, Elinor Rolfe Johnson sustains a confident presence.

The one singer with no apparent link to the RCS is Tom Verney – does the Conservatoire not have a countertenor up to the part? – who began strongly as Oberon, and yet he seemed to tire in last night’s latter 

The real highlight, though, is aerial performer Jamie Reid-Quarrel’s supreme characterisation of Puck, compelling in every sense, from his lean acrobatic agility, to the mercurial fluidity of his ubiquitous stage presence.

Britten’s music is so neatly served by the Scottish Opera Orchestra under chorus director Tim Dean.

It was just a pity about the design and production.