All-student show offers a night to remember
Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts
Academy Drama Theatre
A rarely performed masterpiece became a cause celebre last weekend at Hong Kong's top performing arts institute.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, a three-act opera by Benjamin Britten adapted from Shakespeare's timeless comedy, was given a rebirth in this all-student production. The creativity and performance is close to that of a professional production. Technical execution, from stagecraft, lighting, costume to surtitles, is in a class of its own. The commitment to detail, especially the inclusion of Chinese elements, is extraordinary. The result is a three-hour opera buffa that is satisfying and entertaining.
The accolades should start with the singing cast. All three groups rendered the singing line and recitative at their best. Excellent group singing by the fairies aside, the long arias sung by soprano Alison Lau Cheuk-yan (as Helena) and mezzo Athene Mok Tsz-wai (as Hermia) were seamless in expressing their misgiving or statement of love.
The other soprano, Mimi Ip, also had her moment as the bewitched queen falling in love with the rustic Bottom, who turned into an ass. His other folks, making an amusing sextet, never failed to be a source of laughter. Their Chinese opera gig at the wedding scene was absolutely hilarious and highly original, a big credit to the School of Drama.
The School of Music too deserves a big hand for the refined orchestral playing in the pit. Under the baton of guest conductor Stuart Stratford, the young band displayed discipline and musicality, bringing out every nuance in the scores. The various solo lines from the woodwind and brass were effective with the action on stage. The acoustics in the Drama Theatre were far superior to those of the Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, which are dry and unnatural.
The audience, too, was informed and attentive. A high level of sophistication was evident throughout. It was a performance to remember.