I remember we once attended a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Oxleas woods, South London.
It was one of those performances where you followed the actors and discovered a new location for each subsequent scene. The thickets and clearings of the ancient woodland were haunted by the kingdom of the faeries, Oberon, Titania and Puck. Then of course there was the marriage between the Theseus Duke of Athens and Hippolyta Queen of the Amazons. There was the squabbling and reconciliation of the two pairs of lovers and the play within the play, the comically tragic story of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ with the added characters of Wall, Moonlight and Lion.
I did not imagine I could recapture the magic of that performance in Lucca but I came very close to it. The touring English Theatre Company, based in Pisa, has done sterling work in spreading appreciation of Shakespeare and theatre in English among schools, not just in Italy but throughout the world.
In the city’s San Girolamo Theatre the company produced a very acceptable version of the bard’s charmed comedy written as part of a marriage celebration – the wedding of Elizabeth De Vere to William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby, on June 26, 1594, at Greenwich palace (where the Queen’s house is now), with Queen Elizabeth I in the audience.
Clearly, the play was condensed but without detracting from the flow of the four-layered plot. Above were subtitles in Italian and the ex-church was decently filled.
What was most amazing though was the fact that all twenty-one parts in the play were performed largely by four actors (Wall was a fifth…).
My midsummer night’s dream continued last night when listening to Mendelssohn’s incidental music to the play. To think that the supernatural overture was written when the composer was just seventeen (the other bits were added shortly before his early death aged 38). The melodies weaved their way amid the midsummer fireflies flickering with insect love on such a warm and brief night.
What other music could possibly fit this Apennine enchantment?