Is a Benjamin Britten surge in the air? While the English composer’s genius has often been acknowledged through the years, lately he seems to be drawing a bit more attention. Usually this signifies a centennial, but we’re only at Year 94 since Britten’s birth, so perhaps it means his works are starting to catch on with a wider audience.
His masterpiece, Peter Grimes, recently was given a tremendously effective performance in theaters around the world in a live transmission from the Metropolitan Opera. Later this month the Houston Grand Opera will present Billy Budd, the beginning of a multiyear cycle of Britten operas. Next season’s production will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with other Britten operas to follow until 2013, the centennial anniversary of the composer’s birth.
Meanwhile, opera-goers in this area have an opportunity to sample Britten’s take on Shakespeare’s comedy. The UNT Opera and UNT Chamber Orchestra in Denton are presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with two more performances on Friday and Sunday. Although the performance I saw last weekend had some of the inevitable deficiencies of a student production (the men’s voices were generally immature, for instance), it was a spirited account of the work that got some good laughs and was enhanced by clever use of what were obviously budget physical properties.
Since there is some switching of principals to give more students a chance to perform, I didn’t get to hear everybody, but I was especially taken with the voice of Jennifer Ciobanu as Tytania. The rustic players were also an entertaining comic crew.
The UNT College of Music has a great track record, of course. One former student, Patricia Racette, was Ellen Orford in the Met’s recent Peter Grimes.