A Beautiful Opera, and Quite a Few Beautiful Voices
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream is a work of genious even if it is not exactly melodic. It poses beautiful and intellectually stimulating harmonies and parts for pretty much all different voice parts (and I mean that when I say it; with the leads being countertenor, coloratura, and baritone while many other important roles show off the lyric soprano, mezzo-soprano, lyric tenor, and others). I enjoyed every bit of this opera live, and I enjoyed this recording nearly as much. Though the boys choir leaves a small bit to be desired with their intonation, the boys fairy solos are pretty, and create the affect that I believe Britten was looking for. Brian Asawa has a marvelous voice, and is wonderful as Oberon. You don't need help picturing him as an etherial sounding, immortal fairy. Sylvia McNair has a gorgeous colorutra voice, and does a great job in Tytania's difficult aria. I would call it death to nearly anyone but a true coloratura, and she demonstrates that she can do this part with ease. The rest of the singing cast is correctly placed, creating a great cd overall. However, if you're a newcomer to opera, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. It is truely a musicians own opera. I would rate it a 5 star recording. Definitely buy it (besides I couldn't find the one that Britten actually directed... it's out of print I believe.)"
A very good recording in a field with two great ones
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 11/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Colin Davis is a msterful conductor of Britten and Tippettt, so it seems churlish to point out that he isn't the qual of the composer himself, whose Decca recording of Midsummer Night's Dream includes the cast for whom the parts were written. That doesn't stop Davis from assembling a very convincing ensemble of voices, with Sylvia McNair and the young Ian Bostridge genuine stars. It's touching how loyal the British are to their greatest composers. The recorded sound is perfect, and the orchestra plays with exemplary precision for Davis.
The flaws are chiefly dramatic. Tytania and Oberon fret, argue, and scheme, but here Asawa sound too beautiful and feminine. Where's the king in Oberon? Sylvia McNair is also overly concerned with vocal beauty, although heaven's knows she possesses an abudance of it. For real dramatic conviction, I am drawn to the Hockox recording from 1993, which was based on a successful stage production. There, every cast member comes across as genuinely Shakespearean. But if you own either the Davis or the composer's versions, you have a wonderful recording that does justice to Britten's great and underrated score."
As Magical as Shakespeare's Play
Brett Hanisko | Cedarburg, WI | 06/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'd say 4.5 stars, but oh well...
This recording is just sheer magic, due to Britten's composing and the performances here. The voices aren't always at their top ability, but are generally more than competent. Asawa, in particular, is amazing here--he has an incredible countertenor voice perfect for the role of Oberon. The rustics are refreshingly comic, as well. The second disc doesn't seem quite as good to me, but it is still wonderful music. A note: the score is very 20th century, but it remains tonal, if not traditional."