Performance standards high in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Published on June 21, 2014

Starting with “Cats,” I have reviewed a goodly number of musicals over the past quarter-century. But “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is my first taste of the work of English opera composer, Benjamin Britten.

The Shakespearean plot will be familiar enough, if not the music and song. Two pairs of lovers flee to the woods near Athens when their romantic attachments are hindered by parental and princely authority. Also occupying the woods is a working-class party of “rude mechanicals,” incompetently rehearsing a play to be performed before Theseus, Duke of Athens (Jonathan Dauermann) and his newly-wed consort, Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Gabrielle Baerg, alternating with Lesley Dolma). Eric Downs revels in the juicy part of Bottom, a role he will share on alternate nights with Jeremy Hirsch.

And, of course, there are the fairies, who fill the muslin-draped stage and travel through the audience bearing lights. Their squabbling king and queen are Oberon (Jordan Rutter) and Titania (Brittany Robinson, with Lara Secord Haid alternating in the role).

The opening-night Hermia and Helena (Marjorie Maltais and Clarissa Lyons) are strong interpretively and vocally, with the former having a gorgeous voice and the latter characterized by nice comic flair. The two roles will be shared with alternates Michelle Siemens and Kelsey Vicary.

Performance standards are high in a handsomely costumed, well choreographed, and musically expert show, even if opening-night execution was sometimes on the slow side. And, for my taste, there is a superfluity of entrance through the audience.

Sung in English, with Britten’s musical score and libretto by Peter Pears, the Opera on the Avalon production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which premiered in 1960, continues in the Holy Heart Theatre until Saturday, starting at 8 p.m., directed by Tom Diamond, with orchestral conducting by Vlad Iftinca.

Including two intermissions, running time is three hours, the show closing at 11.