Robert Carsen’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is as visually striking as any of his productions. It’s also one that’s done the rounds, playing in Aix and Lyon before being recorded by a strong cast at the Liceu in Barcelona in 2005. The challenge with Dream is to create visual worlds for the Fairies and the Mortals that are different but work together. Carsen and his usual design team do this very well in this case. The Fairies are given striking green and blue costumes with red gloves. The mortals mostly run to white and cream and gold and they seem to spend a lot of time in their underwear. The lighting, as always with Carsen, forms an important part of the overall design. Carsen completists will also notice certain other characteristic touches like starkly arranged furniture.
It’s a very physical production. People run and jump and dive off things. This is especially true of Puck where Carsen makes an interesting choice, choosing to cast a mature actor, here Emil Wolk, rather than a young boy as seems usually to be the case. This puck is visibly middle aged, a bit manic and a bit creepy and disgusting. He’s a big contrast to Tytania’s Fairies who are immaculately dressed and polite and very well played by the children’s chorus; the Escolania de Montserrat. Carsen also seems to take the “rude” in Rude Mechanicals in the modern sense. The scene with Wall has the unfortunate Chris Gillett as Flute actually kissing his hole.
The principal parts are strongly sung and acted and everybody looks the part too. David Daniels was caught here absolutely in his vocal prime and is superb as Oberon. He’s well matched by the Tytania of Ofelia Sala who has a rather ethereal tone and acts extremely well, especially in the scenes with Bottom. The quartet of lovers; Gordon Gietz, Deanne Meek, William Dazeley and Brigitte Hahn, manage the craziness well and look good in underwear. Peter Rose is a broad Bottom (in every sense) strutting and blustering and generally making an Ass of himself. He’s well supported by the other Mechanicals, especially Chris Gillett as a mincing Thisbe, but they all get through a lot of work in this somewhat hyperkinetic production. Harry Bicket conducts and he brings out the textures and details of the score with great precision.
François Roussillon directs for video and I don’t think this is one of his better efforts. There are just too many, too close, close ups and it goes all artsy in places, especially at the beginning of Act 3. There’s plenty going on in this production and it just doesn’t need help from the video director. The picture is distinctly better than average and the DTS 5.0 sound is perfectly acceptable (There’s also Dolby 5.0 and LPCM stereo). There are English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Catalan subtitles. There is no bonus material and documentation is bare bones.