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Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Press Release

Virginia Opera Presents Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 Richmond, Norfolk, Fairfax, VA (January 8, 2018) – Virginia Opera presents its third production of the 2017-2018 Season,

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten in Norfolk, Richmond, and Fairfax.  The performances are from February 9 through February 25, 2018.  Performance schedules and venue locations are listed below.

Based on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Britten’s opera blurs the lines between fantasy and reality through specific musical themes and styles. Each character in the opera belongs to one of three groups:  the rustics, the lovers or the fairies.  The music of the rustics is folk-like and simple, the lovers’ music is correspondingly romantic, and the fairies’ music is ethereal and other-worldly.  The opera offers something for everyone whether a fist-time viewer or seasoned fan.  Its pure atmospheric enchantment offers immediate accessibility to the audience while engaging the opera buff with clever musical homage references and satire from the Baroque style to SchoenbergSchoenberg. The work premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1960 with the composer conducting.  Since then it has become one of the most frequently performed operas written post World War II.

The concept for Virginia Opera’s production highlights the prevalent themes of magic and imagination.   Using the backstage theater world as the setting, reality and fantasy collide and the suspension of disbelief takes over.

Stage Director Michael Shell explains: “The journey these characters take in A Midsummer Night’s Dream explores one of the things that sets humans apart from all other animals; our capacity to love.  Love is blind. Love is irrational and can frustrate you to no end.  Yet all of these characters seek it, desire it, and go after it with reckless abandon.”

The cast includes several Virginia Opera returning veterans.  Soprano Heather Buck sings the role of Tytania, the Queen of the Fairies.  Ms. Buck performed the challenging role of Queen of the Night in Virginia Opera’s 2013 production of The Magic Flute. Bass-baritone, Matthew Burns returns to Virginia Opera in the role of Bottom after his recent comic portrayal of Dr. Bartolo in the company’s production of The Barber of Seville (2016). Former Virginia Opera Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists, David Blalock and Kristen Choi will return to sing the roles of Lysander and Hermia respectively.  Other cast members include Owen Willetts as Oberon, Mary-Hollis Hundley as Helena, Joseph Lattanzi as Demetrius, Adriane Kerr as Hippolyta, Walter Swan as Theseus, and Morgan White as Puck.

Virginia Opera’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Adam Turner comments, “Benjamin Britten was one of the central figures of the twentieth century musical scene, and Midsummer arguably one of his finest operas. As with any musical adaptation of a Shakespearean drama (think Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette or Verdi’s Otello), the burning question for most audience members will be ‘what does the music actually add to the original play?’ Britten instantly creates a sound palette that evokes the dreamy atmosphere, offering brilliant depictions of the three worlds of the play – that of the Fairies, the human lovers, and the Rustics. And humor abounds – one of the final scenes is a direct sendup of Lucia di Lammermoor, with its very own Mad Scene! Britten’s score is passionate, witty, and ethereal – all qualities that richly heighten Shakespeare’s play and offer listeners a fresh perspective.

 Joining this exceptional cast we are thrilled to collaborate with students of the Governor’s School for the Arts Vocal Music Department, under the direction of Alan Fischer and Stephen Z. Cook. Sixteen young singers will portray fairies in the production. This is only the 2nd appearance of a Benjamin Britten opera in Virginia Opera’s repertory, with a gap of over twenty five years. Our audiences will not want to miss this exciting opportunity!”

President and CEO Russell P. Allen stated, “Benjamin Britten contributed significantly to the world of music with masterpieces for orchestra, chorus, solo voice, and opera.  His compositions are accessible to any audience and provide incredible musical experiences.  Virginia Opera is extraordinarily lucky to be able to present for the first time Britten’s operatic statement of this classic Shakespeare tale.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream will provide our audiences in the Commonwealth with a unique and satisfying opera experience.”

Performances across the state at the following venues:

  • The Edythe C. and Stanley Harrison Opera House – Norfolk – February 9, 11 & 13, 2018
  • George Mason University’s Center for the Arts – Fairfax – February 17 & 18, 2018
  • The Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Energy Center – Richmond – February 23 & 25, 2018

 About Virginia Opera

Virginia Opera Association, Inc., in its 43rd season, is known and respected nationwide for the identification and presentation of the finest young artists, for the musical and dramatic integrity of its productions, and for the ingenuity and variety of its education and outreach programs.  Mainstage performances in three markets across the Commonwealth reach nearly 50,000 attendees annually. In March of 1994, by unanimous vote of the Virginia General Assembly, Virginia Opera was named The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia in recognition of the organization’s contribution to the state as well as to the world of opera.  For tickets and information visit vaopera.org or call 866.673.7282.

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