REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lyric Opera)


Britten adds tonal mysticism to terrestrial Shakespearean comedy


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The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Composed by Benjamin Britten
Libretto by
Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears
Ardis Krainik Theatre, 20 N. Wacker (map)
through Nov. 23  |  tickets: $43-$204  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Fairies clash, couples quarrel, actors fight, the forest is a hotbed for ‘tragical mirth.’ The fates of happy endings rest in the hands of one nymph and he better not puck it up!  Lyric Opera of Chicago presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an English opera composed by Benjamin Britten based on the Shakespearean comedy. A Midsummer Night’s Dream crashes three worlds together. In the shadow land, the king and queen of the fairies are fighting over a newly acquired child-servant. In the A Midsummer's Night Dream - Lyric Opera 10mortal realm, a runaway bride flees with her lover. She is chased by her lawfully-intended groom, who is being stalked by the bride’s best friend. On the theatrical stage, an acting troupe disputes over roles in rehearsals. It’s become one disenchanted forest. To cast a spell on the woods’ inhabitants, the king has an underling push a little herb. Puck gets all the parties stoned. It turns into a swingers’ love fest where one guy ends up quite the ass. Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the Shakespearean mystical comedy played out with a hazy melody.

The show opens in an Avatar-type world designed by Dale Ferguson. The green fabric walls and ceiling are breathing organisms with rhythmic movement. The backdrop is a see-through tapestry showcasing silhouettes for the dreamy ambiance. A beautiful silky stage-size ribbon acts as a top cover to the action. It ripples and flows to frame the story. To add to the magical surroundings, the Anima – Young Singers of Chicago – are multiple white- ghosted cherubs. The young voices blend heavenly with their master and mistress. David Daniels (Oberon) sings the counter-tenor role with an otherworldly sound. As he floats above his dominion, Daniels’ eerie vocal range sets the whimsical tone for the elfin world. With an exquisite long- trained gown, Anna Christy (Tytania) is a regal presence even when making love to a donkey. A Midsummer Night’s Dream breaks operatic form for the role of Puck. Esteban Andres Cruz (Puck) is perfect as the impish sprite delivering his verses without singing.

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For some, the real show begins in the third act for the play within the play. The acting troupe performs a farce within a farce entitled “Pyramus and Thisbe”. An extended version has been staged much to the audience’s delight. As the divo, Peter Rose (Bottom) is hilarious in bellowing out his songs and his overacting. His fairy hook-up descends in a surreal swirling exit. The morning after, he awakes in oblivion to magnificently sing “when my cue comes, call me.”  Bottom’s stage love of his life is Keith Jameson’s Thisbe (in drag). Jameson emphasizes over-the-top dainty and is rewarded with mega-laughs. The wall, the moon, the lion, the dog – the entire cast delivers laugh-out-loud comedy on the stage within a stage.

Between being enchanted by fairies and amused by the actors, the mortals place third in the race for attention. In the non-opera version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the love-cluster of Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena is center stage. For Britten, it’s more of a side to the entrée. His main course is a hearty helping of elfin magic with save-room-the-actors-brought dessert. The real sustenance is the fantasy melodies sung memorably by Daniels and the youthful chorus. These ample portions overpower the familiar sides of girl-chases-boy-chasing- girl-with-other-boy harmonies. Then, it’s time to indulge in the absurd treat that is so enjoyable because it’s way overdone. Dessert: it’s all that with extra nuts. Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a visual imagined magical kingdom frolicked with actors looking for work and mortals looking for love. Sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree?

 Rating: ★★★½

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs November 8th, 10th, 20th, 23rd at 7:30pm, and November 13th, 17th at 2pm

Running Time: Three hours and twenty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission.



Production Personnel




David Daniels - ST

David Daniels

Midsummer Nights Dream - Anna Christy

Anna Christy

Midsummer Nights Dream - Peter Rose

Peter Rose


Wall Midsummer st

Erin Wall

Midsummer Night's Dream - Elizabeth DeShong

Elizabeth DeShong

Mathey Midsummer ST

Shawn Mathey*




Meachem Midsummer ST

Lucas Meachem

Midsummer Nights Dream - Keith Jameson

Keith Jameson

Sam Handley

Peter Quince
Sam Handley


Midsummer Nights Dream - Kelley O'Connor

Kelley O’Connor*

Craig Irvin

Craig Irvin

James Kryshak

James Kryshak*


Midsummer Nights Dream - Wilbur Pauley

Wilbur Pauley

Esteban Andres Cruz

Esteban Andres Cruz*

Paul Scholten

Paul Scholten


Midsummer Nights Dream - Rory Macdonald

Rory Macdonald*

Midsummer Nights Dream - Neil Armfield

Neil Armfield

*Lyric Debut       

ANIMA Young Singers of Greater Chicago
Emily Ellsworth — Artistic Director

Dale Ferguson*

Lighting Designer
Damien Cooper*

Denni Sayers

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3 WORDS: One who doesn’t believe in fairies, Bill describes the show as ‘better second half.’


In the neighboring land from the Civic Opera House, River North boasts a plethora of dining options. With a Lettuce Entertain You gift card in hand, we try Hub 51, 51 W. Hubbard. Rich Melman’s sons have created a hot spot. At 5:45pm, the bar is crowded with after-work crowd and the dining room has started to fill up. The menu offers home-style options like chili and meatloaf along with ethnic specialties, sushi and quesadillas. We decide to split the server recommended Sonoma salad and grilled chicken nachos. The salad is greens served with grapefruit, nuts and other tasty tidbits tossed in a light vingarette. It’s zesty and refreshing and compliments the heap of nachos. The chicken nachos are a gooey mess with a side of mole sauce. The portion is HUGE and despite our best efforts, we leave behind many a nacho. Our server times it perfectly and we are out the door within an hour and headed to fairyland.


3 Responses

  1. The review is wrong about Bottom’s (Peter Rose) love interest. It was Keith Jameson as Flute/Thisbe, not Craig Irvin who did play Theseus. The play within a play was called “Pyramus and Thisbe” (not Theseus).

  2. thanks for letting us know Richard. I’ve made some adjustments. Please let me know if the roles are still assigned incorrectly.

  3. I found another review that seems slightly more critical, but both say the same thing: this show is spellbinding.

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