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Subject: Britten's "white" MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM at Univ of MD--no it did NOT snow
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Date:Tue, 25 Nov 2008 18:11:52 +0000
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Last night I attended the final performance of the University of Maryland's Opera Studio production of Britten's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM. Each fall the studio presents an opera with minimal sets and white muslin costumes and this year it was an even greater success than usual in my mind. This opera has its confusing couples, and in similar outfits, along with the fairies, etc. all in the same outfits, I would have gone mad.
Director Nick Olcott has placed the Athenians in 18th century garb, the fairies in something loose and simple (he calls it 19th century) and the players in 20th century garb, albeit all in basic white or off-white. While you might have confused the two couples costumes their appearance was enough to differentiate and Oberon gets glittery gold hair and a huge gold sash and long robe,  Only Tytania and the fairies really got me confused at first. The players wore simple work clothes all in tones of white and hats as well; they could have come from the mid-West today or even a big city in the mid to late 20th century. 
The set was made up of about two dozen wooden vertical coat racks with pegs which the singers also draped long flowing white sheets around to separate areas, such as Tytania's bed. 
What this kind of work does is SHOW OFF the capabilities of these very young singers. If they can't do it without all their sets, costumes and wigs, then they might as well consider other options! This was an impressive cast of returning students from last year as new ones as well.
I won't mention all the singers, but standouts for me were the hilarious Bottom of ETHAN WATERMEIER, and indeed all the players got repeated laughs in their scenes and especially in the last act.
Second was the lyrical tenor of LOGAN RUCKER's Lysander and the sonorous soprano of ASTRID MARHSALL's Tytania. CHRISTOPHER NEWCOMER has been featured in the Wolf Trap Opera chorus over the past two summers, but got a chance to show off his countertenor as an impressive soloist here, as Oberon really does run the show. It is not a huge voice, but a beautiful one.
Kudos to the acrobatic non-singing, but brilliant acting as Puck by COLIN MICHAEL BRUSH.
The teachers (who are well known to the opera world) such as Dominic Cossa, Francois Loup, Linda Mabbs and Gran Wilson were in their audience and hopefully "kvelling" from their students' accomplishments.
The Studio will be bringing us Xerxes and Onegin in the spring semester (www.claricesmithcenter.umd.edu). 

--
ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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