Backstage Pass: Model Victoria Henley experiences ‘A Midsummer’s’ sweet opera


Viscerally stunning and filled with a striking catalog of exquisitely performed arias, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Atlanta Opera presents Shakespeare’s beloved classic like you have never seen it before.

Composed by Benjamin Britten, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a gorgeous feast for the senses combining a delightful juxtaposition of stirring operatic vocals blended with fanciful production aesthetics and costuming, blended with edge of your seat drama and delightfully lighthearted comedy.

The timeless story by William Shakespeare is imbued with elements of deception, passion, love, betrayal, scandal and drama abounding. The tale takes place in the city of Athens. The curtain draws on Oberon, King of the Fairies, arguing with the Queen Tytania over the fate of a young changeling boy.

Unable to arrive at an agreement, the frustrated queen leaves whilst the adamant king summons a mischievous sprite named Puck to find and fetch a magical flower, possessing a mysterious juice which causes anyone who is sprinkled with it to fall in love with the next person they see. Oberon hatches an underhanded plan for the troublesome Puck to sprinkle Tytania’s eyes with this powerful potion so that she is too lovestruck and impaired to look after the boy and the king may take the boy all for himself.

Subsequently, we are introduced to two couples: Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius. The aforementioned young lovers are all restless and unhappy for a myriad of reasons. A patriarchal Athenian law commands Hermia to marry Demetrius, a man who ardently loves her but with whom she is very much not in love. Lysander pines for Hermia and wishes to share her hand in matrimony , while the heartbroken and lovelorn Demetrius intrepidly sets off on a journey in pursuit of Hermia, in hopes of winning her affections for himself. Helena, a striking and stately woman is hopelessly in love with Demetrius, who coldly and abruptly rejects her time and again, demanding she cease her advances at once.

Oberon, who hears the laments and woes of the unsettled group, attempts to assist by ordering his trusty sprite to help the group by using the mystical floral “love potion” to cause Demetrius to fall for Helena, returning her feelings of unending love. Puck accidentally mistakes Demetrius for Lysander, causing the wrong man to fall madly in love with Helena, leaving Hermia terrified, alone and abandoned.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a motley crew of six plucky working class gentlemen, who are nervously preparing to perform a play for the wedding of the prestigious Theseus (the Duke of Athens) to Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons).

Bottom, who eventually is decided upon as the play’s romantic lead, brings chaotic hilarity with his assortment of antics, and the hapless group continues rehearsals for their big theatrical debut.

This epic, three act, approximately three hour opera takes the audience on an otherworldly journey of sprites, mythical beasts and glorious escapism that seems to make reality all but melt away entirely.

Erik Teague (costume designer) blends fantastical couture for the Fairly Royalty and Sprites with more contemporary attire for the young lovers, creating an unexpected and visually pleasing dynamic, while Nicholas Hussong (projections designer) creates a beautifully immersive surrounding for this timeless story.

Operating under the expert guidance of Director Tomer Zvulun and conductor Louis Lohraseb, the perfectly cast players each fully and perfectly encapsulate the essence of their characters, notably the Julliard trained Soprano Liv Redpath as Tytania (whose soaring, rich, and buttery smooth vocals shone with radiance each time she took the stage), Iestyn Davis (a countertenor who offered a unique take on the Fairy King with his palatable vocals and natural charisma), mezzo soprano Melody Wilson (who portrays Hermia with a simultaneous sweetness and bold aplomb, an approach which has earned her top billing at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall), Luke Sutliff , a sublimely talented baritone, in the role of Demetrius, acclaimed tenor Kameron Lopreore (playing the role of Lysander) who made his Atlanta Opera Debut last season in “The Shining” and Susanne Burgess a remarkable British American Soprano (whom Opera Wire has applauded for her “unique combination of precision and wonder”) in role of Helena.

The hilariously expressive group of “rustics” (including standout Kevin Burdette as Bottom, who also steals the spotlight during some of the opera’s most memorable scenes while donning the infamous “donkey’s head”), including “leading lady” Flute (Brian Frutiger), the focused, yet clueless director Quince (portrayed by bass Andrew Potter), accompanied by a quirky ensemble including Snug, Starveling, and Snout, bring the audience to, quite possibly the loudest and most uproarious unbridled laughter I have ever witnessed at the opera during the tragically hilarious “play within a play,” “Pyramus and Thisbe.”

Special thanks to the wonderful Greg and Atlanta Opera Team for facilitating our visit for this Backstage Pass exclusive spotlight feature!




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