Opera Scotland

Poet's Dream A Poet's Dream; Le songe d' une nuit d' été; A Midsummer Night's Dream

Music

Ambroise Thomas (born Metz, 5 August 1811; died Paris, 12 February 1896).

Text

Joseph Bernard Rosier and Adolphe de Leuven.

Source

Original.

 

Premieres

First Performance: Paris (Opéra-Comique), 20 April 1850.

First Performance in UK: Glasgow (Royalty Theatre), 18 February 1898.

First Performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

The opera's title, which translates from the French simply as A Midsummer Night's Dream, probably killed it stone dead as far as British performances go. It has nothing to do with Shakespeare's play, but is rather a comedy involving Shakespeare as a character, along with Elizabeth Tudor and Sir John Falstaff. It was popular in France, but took half a century to reach Britain, and even under the newly contrived title of A Poet's Dream it failed to catch on. It has, however, been revived from time to time in France.

In an attempt to make this attractive work acceptable to British audiences, William Beatty Kingston produced a translation which was a wholesale rewrite, transplanting events to Spain, with a completely different cast of characters - a radical effort, which still failed to win the work enough admirers.

 

Main Characters                                            Beatty Kingston's adaptation

Quuen Elizabeth (soprano)                          Duchess Erminia.

Olivia, her lady in waiting (mezzo-soprano)   Dona Olivia.

Sir John Falstaff (bass)                               Don Federigo.

William Shakespeare (tenor)                       Pedro Valdez.

Lord Latimer (tenor)                                   Count Esteban.

 

Plot Summary

The queen and her attendant are in disguise, and attend a party of the citizenry near Windsor. The queen recognises Shakespeare's genius, and is distressed that he is apparently wasting his talent. As he subsides, hopelessly drunk, she sings tenderly to his moribund corpse. Falstaff, true to form, attempts, without success, to seduce both ladies. On reviving, the poet dreams that he has been inspired by a muse (the queen in disguise) and decides to compose a play with Falstaff as the central character. The fat knight is encouraged to believe the whole episode was a dream.

The Cast

Count Esteban de Sandoval
 a grandee of Spain
Diego
 a tavern keeper
Don Federigo de Pardan
 ranger of Aranjuez Park
Dona Olivia
 cousin to Erminia
Erminia
 Duchess of Restina
Paquita
 Diego's niece
Pedro Valdez
 a poet

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