‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to premiere at Opera Philadelphia

All photos: Robert Workman

On Friday, Feb. 8, A Midsummer Night’s Dream premieres at Opera Philadelphia, weaving together Shakespeare’s classic comedy of love triangles, magic and mistaken identities with a stunning score by legendary British composer, Benjamin Britten. What’s more, this particular production by Robert Carsen has been wowing audiences around the world for 25 years, but finally makes its U.S. debut with Opera Philadelphia.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins with a disagreement between Oberon (Tim Mead) and Tytania (Anna Christy), who are husband and wife, over a servant boy of Tytania’s that Oberon wants for himself. In an effort to punish his wife for refusing his wishes, Oberon sends his servant Puck (Miltos Yerolemou) for a magic flower that ends up causing a great deal of mayhem.

“Oberon is one of the iconic countertenor roles in the repertoire,” Mead says. “He’s supremely powerful and an incredibly troubled, which makes for a dangerous combination.”

On the subject of Tytania, Christy describes the fairy queen as assertive and ethereal.

“My range sits a little higher. It’s kind of flitty and floaty — like a fairy. Tytania is able to assert herself with the music.”

Game of Thrones fans might also be familiar with Miltos Yerolemou, who plays the mischievous trickster, Puck.

“The minute he’s onstage running around tumbling around, you have no option but to engage fully with him. He’s hilarious,” Mead says. “He really embodies the sense of fun and play the production has within it.”

Miltos Yerolemou of ‘Game of Thrones’ stars in Opera Philadelphia’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’

So what can we expect from the score itself? How does the music support this sense of whimsy? Mead references the overture as a sample of what to expect.

“The first thing you hear, is something that’s almost abstract, very undefined. The music creates a mysterious world where you are not quite sure what’s going on. It’s a sort of shimmering sound that emerges out of nothing. Out of that sound world, the world we create onstage emerges and we are instantly in a world of magical possibilities.”

And opera as an art form itself, opens audiences to a whole new world of possibility.

“It’s a human experience,” Christy says. “It’s something you can’t get from your phone or from a screen. My husband asked me why he feels an emotional response to me singing high notes or the action on stage — he wanted to know why he felt the way he did. There’s something special about live performance and opera combines all of it: orchestra, singing, dancing and acting.”

Mead adds that you shouldn’t expect people to be all stiff and buttoned up at the opera either, especially at a performance as fun as A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“The silliness at the end of the show, I find it hilarious.  We hope the audience leaves the show in balls of laughter.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed from Feb. 8 through Feb. 17 at Opera Philadelphia. For more information, visit: operaphila.org.

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