Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 7:13pm

A Midsummer Night's Dream



HK Philharmonic Orchestra


Cultural Centre Concert Hall


Reviewed: July 4

This was the Hong Kong Philharmonic's closing concert of the season. Conducted by Nicholas McGegan, the all-Mendelssohn programme proved more of an artistic challenge than an end-of-term jolly.

The main item was a collage from the incidental music written for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Music of this kind is generally ephemeral, being suitable only for the original stage production that the composer had in mind, so it's remarkable that the score continues to have life breathed into it by performances such as this.

It was also remarkable that the two professional actors (below), both members of Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company, hadn't memorised their lines. Adam Levy stared at his script for practically every word, while Alexandra Gilbreath occasionally raised her eyes and made hand gestures.

The orchestra sounded uninspired by McGegan's direction, and the groundbreaking overture that graphically describes characters from the play never took off. The opening wind chords were uncoordinated, the gossamer fairies were too fat, and the braying ass sounded domesticated.

Thereafter, a general lack of nuance produced a pedestrian Nocturne and a Wedding March that gradually lost steam.

Soprano Yuki Ip, mezzo-soprano Samantha Chong and the Ladies of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Chorus provided a life belt with some joyous choral interludes that oozed character.

The concert opened with the overture The Fair Melusine in which McGegan gave us a clear-eyed interpretation that was fluid and expressive. An underlying delicacy had moments of spontaneity and contrast, qualities that were to be in short supply during A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In the Three Motets, Op 39 for female chorus, the HK Phil ladies sang with a fine sense of ensemble, focused intonation and freshness of sound.

Sam Olluver