Boston University Opera Institute and Chamber Orchestra in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

in Arts, News Releases
January 17th, 2003

Contact: Elly Muller, 617/353-7293 |

BOSTON—The Boston University College of Fine Arts’ School of Music presents the Opera Institute and Chamber Orchestra in their first opera of the spring season–Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Britten’s legendary 1960 operatic adaptation swirls with some of the most imaginative and expressive music ever inspired by the work of William Shakespeare. Performances begin on the Boston University Theatre Mainstage on February 13 and continue through February 16.

Jim Petosa, Director of the School of Theatre Arts, directs this favorite and enduring comedy of stirring passion, otherworldly evocation and boisterous humor. William Lumpkin, Music Director for the Opera Institute, conducts the Boston University Chamber Orchestra. Sharon Daniels is the Director of Opera Programs for the School of Music.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place in three acts, with libretto by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears after Shakespeare’s play. For the Boston University production, the stage set will take its inspiration from visual images of the universe—such as those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The lighting design will play on the power of the sun and the moon, and costumes will range from late Victorian (the Duke and his betrothed) to contemporary (the four lovers) to fantastical (the fairies).

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is a leading British composer from the mid-20th century whose works are considered the finest English-language operas since those written by Henry Purcell in the 17th century. Britten’s operas are admired not only for their skillful setting of English words, but also for their orchestral interludes, dramatic aptness and depth of psychological characterization.

Plot Summary

At the start of the opera, the orchestra evokes the mystery and magic of the woods and the music suggests the breathing of a dreamer in deep sleep. First, we meet the fairies –who have come for the wedding of Theseus (bass), Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta (contralto)—and Puck, with his characteristic accompaniment of trumpet and drum, speaking rather than singing. The King of the Fairies, Oberon (countertenor) is quarreling with his queen, Titania (coloratura soprano). He tells Puck to drop magic juice into her eyes as she sleeps. The magic juice will make her love the first person she sees when she awakes.

Meanwhile, two lovers, Hermia (mezzo-soprano) and Lysander (tenor), hide in the woods when Hermia’s father demands that she marry Demetrius (baritone). Hoping to win his favor, Helena (soprano) tells Demetrius of their whereabouts, and the two go to the woods in search of the fugitives. Oberon tells Puck to also drop the juice into Demetrius’ eyes to “cure” him of his dislike for Helena. When Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, Lysander falls in love with Helena. But so does Demetrius, when Oberon tries to correct Puck’s mistake.

In the same woods, a group of artisans or rustics are rehearsing a play for the Duke’s wedding. For the broad comedy of this scene, Britten adopts a jaunty style with a gawky trombone solo. Ever playful, Puck gives one of the rustics, Bottom (bass-baritone), an ass’s head; when Titania awakens, she falls in love with Bottom. After some general puzzlement and comic misunderstanding, Oberon’s magic restores Titania, Bottom and the four lovers to their proper states.

Ticket Information

Performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be held on the Boston University Theatre Mainstage, 264 Huntington Avenue in Boston, on:
• Thursday, February 13 at 7:30pm
• Friday, February 14 at 8pm
• Saturday, February 15 at 8pm
• Sunday, February 16 at 2pm

Tickets are $15 and $10 general admission; $10 and $8 BU alumni and Huntington Theatre Company subscribers; $5 students and senior citizens. On sale now. Call the Boston University Theatre Box Office at 617/266-0800.
Please note, for Boston University students, faculty and staff: One free ticket with BU ID at the door, day of performance, subject to availability.

Boston University Opera Programs

The Opera Institute and Opera Workshops are the two programs offered by the Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Music. The programs fall under the guidance of Director of Opera Programs Sharon Daniels, Music Director and Conductor William Lumpkin, Artistic Advisor Phyllis Curtin, Principal Coach Allison Voth, Coach Jeffrey Stevens, and distinguished members of voice faculty, guest artists and staff.

The Opera Institute, founded in 1987 by Dean Phyllis Curtin, is a non-degree professional training program for the advanced singer preparing for an operatic career. Twelve singers, chosen by special audition, are given free tuition and stipends for an innovative two-year residency that provides the crucial transition between student training and professional performance.

The Opera Workshops operate at two levels. The Advanced Workshop is open to 15-20 advanced singers, selected by audition, from degree programs at Boston University. Participants must be at a high level and demonstrate true operatic potential. Students in the Advanced Workshop interact on a daily basis with members of the Opera Institute, receive acting, movement and scenes work and are eligible to audition for, and are often selected as, principals and ensemble members in productions. The Opera Workshop is open by audition to 15 to 20 singers in a degree program at Boston University, who demonstrate true operatic potential and have mastered a beginning level of acting and vocal skill.

Boston University College of Fine Arts is a small, conservatory-style school within a major research university, offering a liberal arts education along with professional training in Music, Theatre Arts and Visual Arts to 1000 graduate and undergraduate students. Education at the College of Fine Arts begins at Boston University and extends into the city of Boston, a center of cultural, artistic and intellectual activity.
For further information about upcoming opera performances and other events from the Boston University College of Fine Arts log on to

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