Hollywood Bowl Preview: A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel. Photo credit Vern Evans

On Tuesday July 28, LA Phil Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel ventures into Shakespeare’s forest of mistaken identities and fairy mischief for A Midsummer Night with Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl. Actress Bryce Dallas Howard will narrate, bringing Shakespeare’s words to life in a magical evening featuring soloists soprano Deanna Breiwick and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway, and the women of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Special guest Gil Shaham, one of the foremost violinists of our time, also joins Dudamel and the LA Phil for Mendelssohn’s popular and well-loved Violin Concerto to complete the program.

Mendelssohn composed the music for his score to A Midsummer Night’s Dream at two different points in his life. The overture was written first, when he was only 17 years old, while his incidental music would come some 16 years later, not long before his death. It is a brightly constructed romantic work that paints images of fairies dancing on the breeze and lovers in delirious pursuit with its delicate and sweeping themes. The Mechanicals arrive with their own picturesque entrance and other motifs are introduced as the story unfolds. When Bottom is turned into an ass by Oberon, king of the fairies, the composer captures it in the music in a most delightful way. 

This is one of the great joys of Mendelssohn’s masterpiece. You see the character development and hear the evolution of the action in the score. For an actor, director, or simply a lover of Shakespeare and his brilliant work, this is a wonderful way to experience A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It will enrich your future relationship to the play and affect how you view it going forward.

The score also contains one of Mendelssohn’s most familiar and well-known pieces, The Wedding March – yes, the same Wedding March you’ve heard at every wedding you’ve ever attended. This time, however, you’ll hear it with the full passion and expertise of the Los Angeles Philharmonic playing and that always makes it a stirring event.

This is the second Hollywood Bowl production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first took place nearly 70 years ago, in September 1934, when German director Max Reinhardt oversaw a spectacular production.* The Bowl’s shell was removed and replaced by a “forest” planted in tons of dirt hauled in especially for the event. A trestle was constructed from the hills to the stage for the wedding procession between Acts IV and V. One can only imagine the resulting torch parade and its effect on an enraptured audience. That staging could never be repeated today with LA’s drought conditions still present and water a scarce commodity but what a sight that must have been in the early days of Hollywood.

The cast included John Lodge, William Farnum, Sterling Holloway, Olivia de Havilland, and Mickey Rooney. Erich Wolfgang Korngold was in charge of the musical aspects of the production. The young Austrian composer would go on to make a second career for himself in Hollywood with scores for such films as Anthony Adverse and The Adventures of Robin Hood, both of which won him Oscars. On the strength of this production, Warner Bros. signed Reinhardt to direct a filmed version of the play, Hollywood’s first foray into Shakespeare since Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford’s Taming of the Shrew in 1929. Mickey Rooney, who played Puck, and Olivia De Havilland, who played Hermia, were the only hold-overs from the cast. It was also the 18-year-old actress’ screen debut.

July 28, 2015 (8pm)
Hollywood Bowl
2301 Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068
Click Here for tickets, directions and parking information.

*Historical data adapted from notes by John Mangum, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association’s Program Designer/Annotator


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Hollywood Bowl Preview: A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Dudamel | The Shakespeare Standard

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