The highly anticipated first announcement for 2021 Adelaide Festival will see Neil Armfield’s production of UK composer Benjamin Britten’s opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, make its Australian debut with an exclusive season at the Adelaide Festival.
Hailed by Stage Door as “a fantastical soundworld that envelopes you in its glittering magic”, Shakespeare’s most loved comedy is given new life and takes the timeless tale of love, laughter and dreamy magic to new heights with iridescent orchestration and stellar performances.
Leading an outstanding cast of international and Australian singers is award winning American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen singing the role of Oberon. Nussbaum Cohen, who won a 2019 GRAMMY Award in the Best Classical Compendium category, will spend over 2 months in Adelaide ahead of the performance. He joins Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin who performs the role of Tytania and New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes who joins the cast as Theseus. Outstanding Australian soprano Taryn Fiebig takes the role of Hermia, while renowned baritone Warwick Fyfe will play the hilarious Nick Bottom. Triple Helpmann Award winning Kanen Breen plays Francis Flute. The non-singing role of Puck will be played by star of Australian film and theatre, the dazzling Mark Coles Smith, a Nyikina man from North Western Australia east of Broome.
Britten’s magically textured score underpins the confusion, hilarity, mystery and eerie beauty of this production supported by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Australian Daniel Carter who has held the position of Kapellmeister at the Deutsche Oper Berlin since August 2019. Some of Britten’s most joyous music will be brought to life with a children’s chorus drawn from the extraordinary ranks of the Young Adelaide Voices directed by Christie Anderson.
The Premier of South Australia Hon Steven Marshall MP said: “It’s extremely exciting to have Neil Armfield’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream coming to the 2021 Adelaide Festival. Not only is it brilliant to be talking about arts festivals opening up again, but to have a production that provides an opportunity for the local artists to perform alongside some of the world’s best opera singers is truly exciting. I am also pleased that regional South Australian audiences will be given the opportunity to see this masterpiece, with performances being live streamed to four regional centres. Joint Artistic Directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield have worked extremely hard to bring us this incredible opera and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for next year.”
Weaving the entire production together is the virtuosity of Neil Armfield, one of Australia’s leading international theatre and opera directors and Joint Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival. Armfield’s affinity with Britten’s operas has been lauded worldwide with his productions of Billy Budd, Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw. Having previously directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Toronto, Chicago and Houston, Armfield wholeheartedly looks forward to sharing this glorious work with Australian audiences for the first time.
Director and Adelaide Festival Joint Artistic Director Neil Armfield AO said: “I am thrilled finally to bring this production that I first directed in Chicago, Houston and Toronto, to Australian audiences. It is an opera of beauty and of joy and it’s very much about reconciliation and magic. We think it’s the perfect work to cheer us up and to remind us of the beauty of the world, the beauty of the imagination and the beauty of making theatre.”
Additional opportunities for audiences to see the opera will be made available through streaming services both in Adelaide and regional South Australia. Elder Park will host A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the Big Screen, where the opera will be streamed to an audience of up to 3,000 who will have the opportunity to buy tickets for as little as $29. The opera will also be streamed into regional South Australia in partnership with Country Arts SA, with venues across Mount Gambier, Port Pirie, Renmark and Whyalla involved so that audiences outside Adelaide can access the performance.
Adelaide Festival Joint Artistic Director Rachel Healy said: “What a way to discover anew that absence makes the heart grow fonder! After months of missing out on so much extraordinary live performance, it’s a thrill to announce that this unique production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will make its Australian premiere on home turf at the Adelaide Festival. It is also a privilege to bring together this largely Australian creative team and witness them recreate this production. We are utterly delighted that audiences across Adelaide and in regional South Australia will have an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of their fellow Australians.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will play at the Adelaide Festival Theatre with four performances running from Friday 26 February until Wednesday 3 March. The full 2021 Adelaide Festival will be announced on Thursday 19 November.