Opera Scotland

A Midsummer Night's Dream in Scotland

Posted 3 Jan 2022

A Midsummer Night's Dream received its Scottish Premiere on 22 August 1961 at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.  This was just over a year since the first performance at Aldeburgh.  The company was the Covent Garden Opera under their newly-appointed music director, the Hungarian Georg Solti.

This staging was directed by the great Shakespearian actor, Sir John Gielgud, in designs by John Piper.  The cast included Joan Carlyle (Tytania) and Russell Oberlin (Oberon).  The four lovers were Irene Salemka, Janet Coster, John Dobson and Peter Glossop.  Among the mechanicals were Geraint Evans (Bottom), Michael Langdon (Quince) and Kenneth Macdonald (Flute).

Scottish Opera launched its hugely popular first production on 24 March 1972 at the MacRobert Centre, Stirling.  The director was another famous Shakespeare specialist, Toby Robertson of the Prospect Theatre Company.  Roderick Brydon conducted, as he would nearly every one of the 60-odd performances round Britain and the continent during the next decade.  One late revival was conducted by another expert Britten interpreter, Steuart Bedford.

Over the years the role of Puck was taken by several promising, young and agile actors, including Tim Curry, Jonathan Hyde and Ewan Stewart.  Oberon was played variously by James Bowman, John Angelo Messana and John York Skinner.  Tytania was represented in turn by Patricia Clark, Glenys Fowles, Nan Christie and Meryl Drower.

The quartet of lovers began with company regulars Catherine Wilson (Helena), Patricia Kern (Hermia), Gregory Dempsey (Lysander) and Michael Maurel (Demetrius).  Their successors included Patricia Hay (Helena); Cynthia Buchan, Joyce Blackham and Linda Ormiston (Hermia); David Hillman and Adrian Thompson (Lysander); with Gordon Sandison and Alan Oke (Demetrius).

Bill McCue sang Bottom at every performance, usually joined by David Kelly (Quince), Francis Egerton (Flute) and John Robertson (Snug).

The Edinburgh Festival of 1994 saw a visit to the newly-opened Edinburgh Festival Theatre by the Australian Opera.  The conductor was the familiar figure of Roderick Brydon, directing his musicians (in Victorian attire) on a Victorian bandstand in a fascinating staging by Baz Luhrmann.  Oberon and Tytania were Michael Chance and Kathryn McCusker, with Ian Bostridge and Paul Whelan as Lysander and Demetrius.

The next staging was again at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. In 2001, students from the Royal College of Music performed in a staging by veteran English director John Copley, whose work was rarely seen in Scotland.  Michael Rosewell conducted a cast that included such future notables as Clint van der Linde (Oberon), Andrew Kennedy (Lysander), Robert Murray (Flute) and Jonathan Lemalu (Bottom).

More recently, English Touring Opera have twice brought their production to the Perth Festival, in 2004 and 2010.  Michael Rosewell was again the conductor, in a production by James Conway.  In the first run Tytania was sung by Rebecca Bottone.  Oberon was Jonathan Peter Kenny and Bottom was Andrew Slater.  The lovers included Elizabeth Atherton (Helena) and Hal Cazalet (Lysander).

In January 2013 Scottish Opera collaborated with students at the RCS in a production seen in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.  The staging by Olivia Fuchs had first been seen at the Royal Opera's Linbury Studio in 2005.  In Scotland, the conductor was Timothy Dean and Hermia was played by future Cardiff winner Catriona Morison.

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