Lyric’s Magical “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is all mists, moonbeams and mischief, and Benjamin Britten’s opera of the same name, running at Lyric Opera of Chicago through Nov. 23, delivers them with twinkling merriment.

From a chorus of singing sprites costumed like the dear little creatures from the “Close Encounters” spaceship to an Oberon who rides in the basket of a hot air balloon, the production envelops the stage in fantasy, transforming it into a place of  enchantment.

The fairy chorus is sung and playfully portrayed by about two-dozen members of Anima, (formerly the Glen Ellyn Children’s Choir) and menacing Oberon, the Fairy King, is sung by countertenor David Daniels. His voice does not carry especially well, but the rest of the singers amply fill the golden Art Deco house. As Titania, the Fairy Queen, soprano Anna Christy is all flirtatious majesty.

The two pairs of matched/mismatched lovers are Elizabeth DeShong as Hermia and Shawn Mathey as Lysander with Erin Wall as Helena and Lucas Meachem as Demetrius. The costume designer doesn’t do the women any favors. DeShong first appears dressed like Little Bo Peep and Wall wears pedal pushers and pigtails!

But oh, the rustics and their hilarious play within this play! Bass-baritone Peter Rose gets maximum laughs as Nick Bottom, the fellow who briefly turns into a donkey and becomes the potion-inducted object of Titania’s affection. The loudest shout-out, however, must be for Puck, a spoken role taken by the nimble Esteban Andres Cruz, who steals every scene he’s in.

Put aside, if possible, Mendelssohn’s music on the same theme, as you’ll hear nothing like his glorious melodies. But Britten’s shimmering score weaves magic and isn’t that what we want on a midsummer night?

For tickets and the calendar of performances, please go to Lyric Opera.

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