Pictures: Tony Ackers
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The production of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in the beautiful, secluded garden of Ashby St. Mary Hall, only a stone's throw from the Old Meeting House on 10th, 11th, 12th and 17th, 18th, 19th July 2014. Our thanks go to Christopher and Anita Kemp, the owners of Ashby Hall, for their kind permission to stage this production in their garden.
Benjamin Britten takes Shakespeare's delicious confection of human passion, fairy spite,and pure high spirits and marinates them in a dark rich musical sauce. This delicious meal will be served up in Norman Manners' dreamlike, prelapsarian and monumental scenery which will create a bridge between reality, dream and enchantment. The drama examines the sharp pricks of love in all their pain and anguish, but all is at last resolved in tender harmony and delight. Geoff Davidson conducts, The Junior Broadland Choir sprinkles the Fairy Dust, Richard White directs and our cast brings together Claxton Opera's most accomplished soloists and a motley crew of crusty peasants to delight you. Who could resist it?!
|Royal Guests||Brigitte Campbell and Arnold Miller|
The Fairies: Cobweb, Mustardseed, Moth,
The Junior Broadland Choir
We began music rehearsals with Geoff Davidson our Musical Director at the beginning of February. It's wonderful stuff but very challenging even though it was composed more than fifty years ago. Britten is exploring the very limits of the possibilities of diatonic composition. Overall I think that A Midsummer Night's Dream contains some of the most direct, passionate and emotionally charged music he ever wrote. There are a number of passages which even now after six months of study I cannot hear without the most intense emotion.
My dear wife Bobby died just a year ago and Britten's tender and intense exploration of dream, reality, love and reconciliation have accompanied and helped my journey through grief and memory towards resolution. I'm going to dedicate the production to the memory of our life together.
Rehearsals are enormous fun and very hard work, as ever, some seem to absorb it all with consummate ease while others struggle on book in hand trying desperately to imprint Britten's challenging musical structures on their heavily challenged memory cells! We're rehearsing at the moment at The Old Meeting House where a twenty foot square stage has to stand in for a lawn one hundred feet long by forty feet deep. So large is the acting area that I've put Puck on a bike. Even so I don't think he'll quite manage to put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes!
The Rude Mechanicals are all old friends including of course John Barnett our erstwhile conductor who is taking to the boards as Peter Quince the rather troubled director of the famous play Of Pyramus and Thisbe, a play he describes as 'a tedious brief scene ......very tragical mirth'. Our four lovers, Andrew, Selina, Huw and Ruth make a handsome foursome in voice and person and will certainly charm and excite their audience as they struggle to resolve their heart-ache in the the dark wood of dreams. I'm still trying to persuade Ruth to take a dive into the lake! I've had one rehearsal so far up at the garden with David who plays Puck. He zoomed about on his bike around the lawn and seemed not to be damaging it. The lawn is the much cherished possession of our most generous hosts Christopher and Anita Kemp. He will actually be riding a 1930s delivery boy's bike and we are going to build him a 'magic' bridge over the little lake.
Meanwhile Pat Tegerdine our once retired wardrobe lady has nobly stepped back in for our last show and has the costumes well under way. We've already had a try-on for Tytania - perfect; and I think she'll be able to climb in and out of her Fairy Barge without falling into the aforementioned lake! Another group of loyal and rather skilled old, old friends have been working on the set. We meet for a day a week, drink a lot of coffee, enjoy leisurely lunches and construct a lot - in this case a huge amount of scenery. When we're not making scenery we meet every few months for a Claxton Old Farts Lunch (our chosen title - we are all of a certain age. These occasions tend to be very noisy and moderately bibulous. I think we rather resemble Shakespeare's Rude Mechanicals, indeed three of us are Rude Mechanicals in this production.).
Yet another group under the guidance of Norman Manners is painting the scenery as it comes off the Old Farts assembly line. These meet at least once a week here at Claxton sometimes just for a morning, sometimes all day and the product is looking wonderful. There is so much of it my sheds are bursting! WE do need more painters - get in contact and come and help us! So, it's going well and very soon I shall start the cast on learning an ANTI RAIN DANCE in preparation for mid July.
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A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 64, is an opera with music by Benjamin Britten and set to a libretto adapted by the composer and Peter Pears from William Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was premiered on 11 June 1960 at the Aldeburgh Festival, conducted by the composer and with set and costume designs by Carl Toms.
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