The title may recall A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the libretto of this opéra-comique plays in a much subtler way. Shakespeare here is one of the characters, together with Falstaff and Queen Elizabeth I.
Le Songe d'une nuit d'été
Opera-comique in three acts
Libretto by Joseph-Bernard Rosier and Adolphe de Leuven
Music by Ambroise Thomas
First performance 20 April 1850, Opéra-Comique, Paris.
Sung in French with English surtitles
The orchestra will be reduced to accommodate the COVID-19 safety requirements.
arranged by Andreas Luca Beraldo (*1988)
published by Cecilia Music Concept, Cologne
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.
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.
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.
The third leading character is Sir John Falstaff, Governor of ‘Richemont’ (where the action is set), intruding into the story a couple of centuries out of period. 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…
Discover the Repertoire
by Ian Fox
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).
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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).
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).
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).