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Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream / Daniels, Sala, Gietz

Britten / Daniels / Sala / Gietz / Bicket
Release Date: 01/24/2006 
Label:  Erato (Dvd)   Catalog #: 39202  
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Peter [bass voice] RoseGordon GietzDavid DanielsOfelia Sala,   ... 
Conductor:  Harry Bicket
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Teatro Liceu Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRITTEN A Midsummer Night?s Dream ? Harry Bicket, cond; David Daniels ( Oberon ); Ofelia Sala ( Tytania ); Gordon Cletz ( Lysander ); Deanne Meek ( Hermia ); Willam Dazeley ( Demetrius ); Brigitte Hahn ( Helena ); Peter Rose ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Bottom ); Emil Wolk ( Puck ); et al; Liceu SO & Escolania de Montserrat ? VIRGIN 3392029 (2 DVDs: 157:00) Live: Barcelona 2005

Robert Carsen?s seductive production of Britten?s A Midsummer Night?s Dream , originally performed at Aix-en-Provence, shows very well in this two-DVD set recorded at Barcelona?s Gran Teatre del Liceu. In some cases, the video production outshines the live experience: act III opens with Oberon leading his followers to Athens from the rear of the theater, through the center aisle to the stage. In François Roussillon?s video direction, they are seen head on through a blindingly brilliant haze of golden sunrise.

Musically, the star of the performance is counter-tenor David Daniels whose ?I know a bank where the wild thyme blows? is the set?s vocal highlight. His voice has a natural beauty that Russell Oberlin, from a different generation of countertenors, on the classic Glyndebourne film never attains. Ofelia Sala, the Liceu?s alluring Tytania, gives Glyndebourne?s superb Ileana Cotrubas serious competition. The other singers, including the two couples and the mechanicals, are fine if not, with the exception of Peter Rose?s splendid Bottom, quite as memorable as Glyndebourne?s cast. This includes the spoken role of Puck, superbly acted in the English production by the very young Damien Nash. At the Liceu, an adult actor (Emil Wolk) is cast as Oberon?s sidekick. He is less innocent and less playful, but then, so is Carsen?s production. The fairy band, decked out as liveried servants from the Emerald City, is a group of fine singers and actors: their English diction is surprisingly good, as I assume they are native Catalan speakers. Harry Bicket, a conductor whose work in the Baroque field is highly admired, gets good results from the Liceu?s orchestra, particularly in the moonlit music of Bottom?s fateful tryst with Tytania. He is helped by the fine principal clarinet and solo harp. If Bicket never reaches the overall accomplishment of Bernard Haitink, there are only a handful of living conductors on the Dutch maestro?s level.

Carsen?s visual setting misses the Glyndebourne set?s forest. In fact, the dominant feature on the stage is a mountainous nuptial bed. Costumes are eclectic and represent no particular period?this is the norm in opera these days?but are uniformly attractive. All that remains for me to say is that Britten has created one of the most satisfying settings of Shakespeare on the operatic stage, one that enriches and illuminates the original while standing convincingly on its own substantial merits. The Glyndebourne set is an essential part of any Britten library; for David Daniels alone, so is this new Virgin DVD.

FANFARE: Michael Fine
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Works on This Recording

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 64 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Peter [bass voice] Rose (Bass), Gordon Gietz (Tenor), David Daniels (Countertenor),
Ofelia Sala (Soprano), William Dazeley (Baritone), Deanne Meek (Mezzo Soprano),
Brigitte Hahn (Soprano), Christopher Gillett (Tenor), Emile Wolk (Voice)
Conductor:  Harry Bicket
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Teatro Liceu Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; England 
Date of Recording: 4/2005 
Venue:  Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, Spain 

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