College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
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George Mason University

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Opera’s Debt to Shakespeare

January 19, 2018

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Center for the Arts

Next month, the enchanting opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream arrives at the Center for the Arts stage, presented by Virginia Opera. This fascinating 20th century production demonstrates the power of reckless love through the constant blurring of fantasy and reality. Themes of unrelenting adoration, opulence, purity, and ambition shine through this dazzling opera as the unique score by Benjamin Britten pays homage to the iconic play by William Shakespeare. 

In fact, the debt that opera owes to Shakespeare is far overdue. Almost 300 operas based off of Shakespeare’s plays have been composed and performed with resounding success, and Britten’s Midsummer has been no different since it first premiered in 1960. Countless librettists have taken their inspiration from Shakespeare’s plays by using the characters, plots, and ideas, making today’s opera scene overtly and covertly influenced by the great author.

However, Britten’s work on A Midsummer Night’s Dream strays from the common practice of simply composing operas marked by Shakespeare’s mere influence. Not only did Britten use the majority of Shakespeare’s original language, but he also included most of the original characters with main plots. Since this play happens to be somewhat unique among Shakespeare’s works in that it is more concerned with psychological forces than character development, Britten attempted to match these changing themes with a signature, highly individualistic score containing atonal and atmospheric tones and wildly swinging moods.

Michael Shell, stage director for Virginia Opera, explains: “the concept of the production highlights the prevalent themes in the opera of magic and imagination. Using the backstage theater world as our setting, we will blur the lines between reality and fantasy using the magic of the theater to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.”

Honor Shakespeare’s influence with this stunning and unforgettable production!

Virginia Opera: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Saturday, February 17 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 18 at 2 p.m.

Make it a Date with a Valentine’s Package!

Treat your valentine to a romantic date. Arrive early and take a picture in our special photo booth. Enjoy two glasses of Champagne and chocolates before the opera or during intermission.

Tickets and information