Opera based on Shakespeare classic set 40 years in the future

March 18, 2003

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Eastman Office of Communications, 585-274-1050

ROCHESTER, NY — A classic by Shakespeare — with a decidedly modern twist — comes to life this spring as Eastman Opera Theatre presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an opera by Benjamin Britten. Performances will be at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 3 through Saturday, April 5, and at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 6, in Eastman Theatre (60 Gibbs St.).

Based on Shakespeare’s 1595 comedic play about love and fantasy, Britten’s three-act opera (with a libretto written by the composer and collaborator Peter Pears) centers around the many different forms of love in society, revealed through four distinct groups of players: the Fairies, the Lovers, the Royalty, and the Rustics. The entire action of the story occurs from twilight to dawn and plays out as a dream to the audience in which everything is reversed. Originally premiered in 1960 at the Aldeburgh Festival, Eastman’s production moves the general setting into the future some 40 years after an apocalyptic event — allowing for an exciting and futuristic use of sets, costumes, and lighting.

“Shakespeare’s literary brilliance has survived the test of time,” said director Steven Daigle, associate professor of opera at Eastman. “His themes are relevant today and will surely continue to entertain and educate audiences far into the future. Likewise, Benjamin Britten is considered one of the premier opera composers of the twentieth century. As the future unfolds and Britten’s contribution to the music world is fully realized, he may be considered one of the greatest of all opera composers — like Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, and Wagner. This production explores, in an intriguing way, the universal nature and the many facets of love as a necessary part of the human condition.”

The opera features two alternating casts of Eastman voice students accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonia, which will be conducted by Benton Hess, distinguished professor of voice and music director of Eastman Opera Theatre. It also features members of the Eastman Children’s Chorus (a new ensemble of the School’s Community Education Division) as a chorus of fairies. Leading the cast are Daniel Brondel as Oberon; Sarah Minckler and Ali Grandey as Titania; Michael Kelly as Puck; Valerie Kopinski and Sonia Rodríguez Bermejo as Helena; Heather Davis and Faith Sherman as Hermia; Pablo Bustos and Cheol Min Jin as Lysander; and Ryan Lathan and Oliver Henderson as Demetrius.

General admission tickets are $15, with discounts available to University of Rochester students, faculty, and staff. They are available in advance at Ticket Express (100 East Avenue), by phone at 232-1900, online at www.ticketmaster.com, or may be purchased at the theatre box office one hour prior to the start of each performance.

On Thursday, April 3, the Friends of Eastman Opera will sponsor an opening night dinner at Max at Eastman Place (25 Gibbs St.) beginning at 6 p.m. that features a talk by special guest Rita Shane, Eastman professor of voice. Reservations are required. Tickets ($75, including dinner and preferred seating for the opera) may be obtained by calling Louise Klinke at 442-8069.


Note to editors: Steven Daigle and Benton Hess are available for interviews.