The UMKC Conservatory opened a rendition of Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” an operatic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy, on Thursday, March 14.
The story’s overlapping plotlines finally connect in the conclusion. The play centers around three parties: four young lovers, a troupe of six actors and the mystical fairies of the forest.
The plot revolves largely around the four young lovers, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander, and Helena, who are manipulated with a love potion by the fairies. Most of the play takes place in a mystical forest. The setting is accented by a minimalistic set, which consists of a large tree and a sheet backdrop with the image of a forest projection onto it, making a large amount of attention directed toward the performers.
Shakespeare’s lines were not altered for Britten’s rendition, and at times, their power is intensified by the shift from speech to song.
The dancers were a hallmark of the performance. Acting as purveyors of the world, a group of fairy dancers appeared after each scene to silently announce the transition. Their movements are profound and speak to their identities as forest fairies, both graceful and beautiful. They move weightlessly as they float over the stage and dance in unison. They exude a pure feeling of the nature’s bounty and beauty, swaying like tall blades of grass being gently pushed by the winds
The Queen of the Fairies, Titania’s subjects especially exudes this classical elation. Garbed in loose dresses with vined greenery wrapped around them, they flirtatiously channel the happiness of an eternal youth and beauty. The fairies are mystical and visually decadent in both their movements and appearance. The human actors expertly play off comedy and, at times, frailty, amid the confusion beset upon them.
What solidifies the dream-like atmosphere is the orchestra. Expertly conducted by UMKC’s Robert Bode, the soundtrack is alive as it softly breathes. The rising and falling volume intensifies extreme feelings of fantasy. It is with all these elements working together that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” feels impossibly beautiful and infinitely incredible.