Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Veasey, Vaughan, Baker, Young, Bryn-Jones, Langdon, Guy; Balkwill. London, 1966
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Of all the great adaptations of Shakespeare in the world of opera (and there are many) A Midsummer Night's Dream, in my opinion, is the most successful at replicating the feel of Shakespearean style. Whereas other composers drew inspiration from Shakespeare but ultimately presented it through the lens of the musical zeitgeist, Benjamin Britten seemed more keen on letting the action and text act as a springboard thereby creating a style that, although bearing the signature of Britten, seems to have sprung organically out of the Elizabethan era. This recording is interesting not only for the stellar cast, but also for the fact that it is a rare (possibly singular) performance in which the role of Oberon is played by a woman instead of a countertenor. With a woman's voice you lose a touch of the ethereal quality, but Josephine Veasey's strong mezzo makes up for it by giving the role a gravitas and commanding presence that most countertenors can't muster. The rest of the cast includes Janet Baker as Hermia, Delme Bryn-Jones as Demetrius, Elisabeth Vaughan as Titania and Michael Langdon as Bottom. The sound is very good.