Not quite a ‘Dream’ 

So, what’s the San Francisco Conservatory of Music doing in Cowell Theater, performing an opera? We are talking about the Conservatory which just in September opened an $80 million "teaching, performance, rehearsal and practice complex" on Oak Street. Oops: no facility for dramma per musica. Too bad. Still, this exported production of Benjamin Britten’s 1960 "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" went through swimmingly Thursday.

Cowell is a fine, cozy facility, well warmed to youthful opera by both the San Francisco Opera Center as well. The younger and less experienced Conservatory students held their own, with some good voices, an orchestra — under Andrew Mogrelia’s tight direction — firing on a good number of cylinders, in a kind of Siamese-Ceylonese (think "Pearl Fishers" with gold temple headdress) production by Jean-Francois Revon (sets) and Alexaw Visel (constumes), directed by Richard Harrell.

The rewrite of the Shakespeare play by Britten and Peter Pears is dramatically no improvement on the original, which is twice as long, and the elimination of Act 1 is lamentable. More to the point, Britten’s music is all light and shimmer, as magical as any of his works — and very, very difficult to perform well, to do justice to many whisper-quiet string passages. It is to Mogrelia’s credit that the student orchestra stayed together, the former San Francisco Ballet conductor both controlling and supporting the players. Co-concertmasters David Southorn and Thomas Yee, woodwinds, and — surprisingly — the small brass section all did well.

On the stage, in the Thursday "A" cast, Jennie Litster’s big-voiced (but not excessive) Tytania ruled, well matched against JenniferNadig’s more subtle but effective Oberon. Good balance was also in evidence between the two pairs of lovers, sung by Kaileen Miller, Crystal Philippi, Eric Therialt and Adam Meza. Kate Smith excelled in the speaking (and cartwheeling) role of Puck, and William O’Neill’s portrayal of Bottom was powerful in both of the character’s manifestations.

Britten’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream"

Presented by: Conservatory Opera Theatre

Where: Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Buchanan Street and Marina Boulevard, San Francisco

When: 7:30 p.m. today; 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $15 to $20

Contact: (415) 345-7575 or www.sfcm.edu

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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