To mark 400 years of Shakespeare, the 2016 Glyndebourne festival presented two operas based on his work - Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz
Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict, adapted from Much Ado About Nothing, had its fully-staged Glyndebourne debut in a new production directed by Laurent Pelly. Glyndebourne had previously performed the work in concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1993 when the Festival relocated there while a new opera house was built.
Berlioz had a great passion for Shakespeare, whose plays inspired some of his greatest works including a King Lear overture, his great dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette and some smaller vocal works based on excerpts from Hamlet.
Glyndebourne Music Director Robin Ticciati, an ardent champion of Berlioz, conducted the opera and said: “In Béatrice et Bénédict we see Berlioz responding to his great love of Shakespeare. It’s a magical piece which fizzes with texture and lightness and it was a great pleasure to conduct the opera’s first full staging at Glyndebourne.”
Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The second Shakespeare offering saw the return of Peter Hall’s enduringly popular 1981 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, receiving its first revival in ten years.
Photography by Robert Workman
An impressive ensemble cast was assembled including bass Matthew Rose as Bottom, countertenor Tim Mead as Oberon and coloratura soprano Kathleen Kim as Tytania. Kazushi Ono, last seen at Glyndebourne in the 2012 Ravel double bill, conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream also provided the inspiration for a Glyndebourne Youth Opera project featuring new compositions from Glyndebourne’s Young Composer in Residence, Lewis Murphy.
David Pickard, General Director of Glyndebourne, said:
“Shakespeare’s work has inspired artists of all genres and generations; opera is no exception. Given Robin Ticciati’s passion for Berlioz there seemed no better time to present a full staging of Béatrice et Bénédict. I’m also delighted that we’re offering another chance to experience a true Glyndebourne classic, Peter Hall’s timeless A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Glyndebourne looks back at their most memorable Shakespearean moments
Macbeth, 1938. Photo: Glyndebourne Archive
Not only was Verdi’s Macbeth the first Shakespeare-inspired piece performed at Glyndebourne, it was also the first non-Mozart work to appear in the Festival. Its 1938 debut marked the first professional production of the opera in the UK, and among the chorus was the young tenor Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten’s partner.
The vibrantly coloured original backdrop from the final act of the 1938 production of Macbeth was rediscovered in a storeroom at Glyndebourne in 2006 and is pictured below.
Photo: Mike Hoban
1964 saw a new production of Macbeth, with memorable design by Emanuele Luzzati, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. The same year a production of The Taming of the Shrew was also performed at Glyndebourne.
Macbeth was also staged in 2007 in a new production by Richard Jones.Falstaff (Verdi)
Falstaff, Festival 2013. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Verdi’s witty take on The Merry Wives of Windsor has been the most performed Shakespeare-inspired opera at the Festival, staged 11 times.
The first production debuted at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1955. Below you can see an image of Carl Ebert, Glyndebourne’s first Music Director, during rehearsals. Osbert Lancaster’s impressive set took inspiration from the windows in the Glyndebourne Organ Room.
Photo: Guy Gravett
Three further productions of Falstaff have been staged at the Festival, premiering in 1976, 1988 and 2009.