Le Songe d’une nuit d’été

Ambroise Thomas (1811–1896)

Opera-comique in three acts

Libretto by Joseph-Bernard Rosier and Adolphe de Leuven

Sung in French with English surtitles

First performance 20 April 1850 by the Opéra-Comique at the second Salle Favart, Paris

Best remembered for his operas Mignon and Hamlet, Ambroise Thomas (1811–96) wrote around 20 works for the lyric stage, mostly forgotten – though Wexford audiences may recall his La Cour de Célimène. Premiered in Paris at the Opéra-Comique in 1850, about halfway through Thomas’s career, Le Songe d’une nuit d’été was a considerable success, and it is not hard to see why it remained popular until at least the end of the nineteenth century when The Musical Times was still describing it as ‘a little masterpiece’. Now an absolute rarity, it was however revived in Compiègne in 1994 in celebration of the opening of the Channel Tunnel.

Anyone expecting to see Oberon and Titania will be in for a surprise: Le Songe d’une nuit d’été has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; it is a fantasy about Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I. The librettists portray the playwright-poet sinking gradually into drunkenness and debauchery until Elizabeth is forced to remind him of his duty as England’s literary genius (‘Il faut respecter le genie qui pour toi descendit du ciel’). The third leading character is Sir John Falstaff, governor of ‘Richemont’, where the action is set. He intrudes into the story a couple of centuries out of period and the lady-in-waiting Olivia is courted by Lord Latimer but nearly loses him when Shakespeare accidentally embraces her and then has to fight the young peer. Not very Shakespearean at all … more Shakespeare in Love.

Le Songe d’une nuit d’été is an opéra comique, with spoken dialogue. The musical characterisation of Olivia has sometimes been compared with that of Mignon, which is high praise, and although the score may not contain the sort of tunes that made Mignon an undisputed hit, the music is richly melodic and full of the gentle pathos so characteristic of Thomas’s work. The woodland music in Act 2 has everything required of a work written in the middle of the Romantic century.

Creative Team

Conductor
Guillaume Tourniaire
Director
Walter Le Moli
Set Designer
Tiziano Santi

Italy

Previous Engagements: Set Designer (Risurrezione, Alfano, Wexford Opera Festiva, Teatro del Maggio Fiorentino; Un ballo in maschera, Verdi, Teatro Nazionale Budapest, Oviedo e Valladolid; Falstaff, Verdi, Teatro Massimo – Palermo).

Forthcoming Engagements: Set Designer (Madama Butterfly, Puccini, Rennes, Angers, Nantes; Adriana Lecouvrer, Cilea, Teatro Comunale di Bologna; La traviata, Verdi, Teatro Nazionale Vilnius).

Costume Designer
Gabriele Mayer

Italy

Previous Engagements: Costume Designer (Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma), Assistant Costume Designer (Tosca, Puccini, Teatro alla Scala), Costume Designer (Lou Salomé, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Teatro La Fenice).


 

Lighting Designer
D.M. Wood

Canada

Previously at WFO: Lighting Designer (Medea, Margherita, Risurrezione, 2017).

Previous Engagements: Lighting Designer (Susanna, Handel, Royal Opera House; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Britten, Deutsche Oper Berlin; La favorite, Donizetti, Houston Grand Opera).

Assistant Director
Chiara Girlando

Italy

Previous Engagements: Assistant Director (The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare, Fondazione Teatro Due – Parma; Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Monteverdi, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg; Serpilla e Bacocco / Fidalba e Artabano, Orlandini / Ristori, Purtimiro Festival – Lugo di Romagna).

Forthcoming Engagements: Assistant Directo (Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, Händel, Fondazione Teatro Due – Parma).

Assistant Set Designer
Serena Treppiedi
Assistant Designer
Giovanna Spinelli

Cast

Queen Elizabeth I
Hasmik Torosyan

Soprano, Armenia

Previous Engagements: Léïla (Les Pêcheurs des perles, Bizet, Teatro Regio di Torin), Norina (Don Pasquale, Donizetti, New National Theatre Tokyo), Musetta (La bohème, Puccini, Teatro Verdi di Salerno).

Forthcoming Engagements: Musetta (La bohème, Puccini, Teatro Regio di Torino), Ninette (L’amour des trois oranges, Prokofiev, Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli), Léïla (Les Pêcheurs des perles, Bizet, Teatro Colón - Buenos Aires).

Olivia
Valentina Mastrangelo

Soprano, Italy

Previous Engagements: Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart, Dubai Opera), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni, Mozart, La Fenice), Tatyana (Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Teatro Verdi di Trieste).

Forthcoming Engagements: Liù (Turandot, Puccini, Il maggio musicale fiorentin), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli), Musetta (La bohème, Mozart, Teatro Comunale di Bologna).

Shakespeare
Sébastien Guèze

Tenor, France

Previous Engagements: Faust (La Damanation de Faust, Berlioz, Metropolitan Opera), Maurizio (Adriana Lecouvreur, Cilea, Opéra de Marseille), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly, Puccini, Opéra de Nantes Angers).

Forthcoming Engagements: Don José (Carmen, Bizet, Leipzig), Roméo (Roméo et Juliette, Gounod, Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole), Don José (Carmen, Bizet, Seville).

Falstaff
Tommaso Barea

Bass-baritone, Italy

Previous Engagements: Le Dancaïre (Carmen, Bizet, Sferisterio Opera Festival di Macerata), Firman-Trombest (Pietro il grande, Donizetti, Donizetti Festival di Bergamo), Fiorello (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Opéra de Paris).

Forthcoming Engagements: Schaunard (La bohème, Puccini, Teatro Regio di Torino), Baritone (Symphony no. 9, Beethoven, Teatro delle Muse di Ancona, Teatro Rossini di Pesaro), Leporello (Don Giovanni, Mozart, Sferisterio Opera Festival di Macerata).

Lord Latimer
Vasyl Solodkyy
Jeremy
Sheldon Baxter

Baritone, Canada

Previously at WFO: Zeno (La cucina, 2019), Gustave (Dinner at Eight, 2018).

Previous Engagements: Oscar (Cabaret, Kander and Ebb, Semperoper Dresden), Baritone, Trio (Trouble in Tahiti, Bernstein, Semperoper Dresden), Assistant Choreographer (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Wagner, Semperoper Dresden).

Nelly
Paola Leoci

Soprano, Italy

Previous Engagements: Oscar (Un ballo in maschera, Verdi, Teatro Petruzzelli), La Contessa di Folleville (Il viaggio a Reims, Rossini, Rossini Academy/Rossini Opera Festival), Papagena (Il flauto magico, Mozart, Macerata Opera Festival).