How can music deliver the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

Minors, Helen Julia (2014) How can music deliver the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? In: Kingston Connections 2014; 21 - 29 Jun 2014, Kingston upon Thames, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Shakespeare’s plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been the basis of many musical works, from ballets, tone poems to operas. Both Mendelsohn and Britten set the play to music: Mendelssohn first created an overture then later incidental music; Britten created an opera. Both versions utilise Shakespeare text, character creations and narrative structures as a basis for their musical translations. In August 2012 a new production was offered at the Sferisterio Macerata Opera Festival in Italy; a fusion of the play and the two previous musical scores this new version of work questions the nature of how music is able to appropriate aspects of Shakespeare’s text. This lecture explores this new version, Sogni (Dreams), questioning how a combination of music and text can deliver a story and bring fresh insight to a familiar plot. Supporting examples will be drawn from interviews with the director, technical manager and musicians of this production. Other interesting issues include the nature of the text’s translation (English and Italian) and the accessibility of the opera, via a touch tour (for the blind, partially sighted and children) and audio described performances (in English) for the partially sighted and blind. In the longer term, we should consider whether such initiatives will widen the appreciation of – and the audience for – opera.

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