Term Paper: Midsummer Nights Dream Britten

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Britten's Midsummer's Night

Midsummer Night's Dream by Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten got the plot for this opera from Shakespeare's play by the same name. In 1960 he, along with his companion, Peter Pears, presented it as a showpiece for his friends and for a wide variety of talents. It contains a largely spoken, theatrical part (Puck's), a boy's soprano choir, a large fairy who sings coloratura, a simple country bumpkin named Bottom whose head is turned into an ass' head by Puck, and romantic subplots. It is humorous and lyrical and a treat for the musical ear.

Throughout the opera, one is entranced by the many layers of not only plots, but musical activity. While one is amused by the fairy world, which is announced with harps, keyboards and percussion for atmosphere, the rustics being accompanied by a comical trombone, one is taken aback at the mechanicals, illustrated with brass and woodwinds, the regal court of Theseus which is announced with horns, then swooning with a love story accompanied by strings and wind instruments and flute music accompanying a man by the same name (Britten 1990).

Britten starts the opera in what was the second act of Shakespeare's play, but refers to what happened, so the audience does not feel anything is missing. The rustic folk, the fairies and the lovers are first presented in the woods around Athens and from there on the action never stops. The lead role of Oberon is sung by a countertenor, which is very rare, as leads are usually sung by tenors or basses. As the fairies appear, the well-known song, "Over hill, over dale" is heard, sung by Tytania's young boys' fairy choir. The strange relationship of Tytania and Bottom is the central romantic story that Britten chose to make the centerpiece of the opera. The dominating female fairy has a very difficult role to play, as she is attracted to Bottom, but is subject to Oberon and his accomplice, Puck, who make her life very difficult and her music hard to sing.

Oberon and Puck put the juice of an herb on her eyes that "will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees. Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, on meddling monkey, or on busy ape" (Britten 2007). And this is the beginning of the mischief portrayed in the opera (Karadar 1). Needless to say, when Tytania awakes, she sees the rustic Bottom first, who has been given an ass' head, and falls madly in love with him, to his already aggravated consternation.

Throughout the play, the gods, demi-gods, and Greek heroes such as Helena and Demetrius, play and chase each other. Lysander, Helena, Hermia and Demetrius have received the juice on their eyelids while asleep, which makes them fall in love with the wrong person. And the last act is the most important, of course, where all of the intrigues are sorted out. Oberon takes the spell off of Tytania. With Bottom's real head back, the rustics put on a play for all the rest, which, when one sees it, is hilariously funny in all of its straining to be serious and to tell the tale of Pyramus and Thisby, in spite of the audience's cruel comments.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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