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The Dream Team - Well Met
NEW YORK (AP) -- Composers spent hundreds of years struggling to create an opera from Shakespeare's ``A Midsummer Night's Dream'' before Britten finally managed to get the work on stage in 1960. It took another 36 years for the piece to make it to the Metropolitan Opera.

Tim Albery's modernist 1996 production was revived for the first time Monday night, with a strong cast led by David Daniels' Oberon.

Designer Antony McDonald created striking set designs, which include a horizontal tree and a crescent moon that becomes a bed, and successfully narrowed the vast Met stage with a cartoonlike inner proscenium. He also dressed the characters in colorful costumes -- Daniels' third act sequined suit had fairy wings.

It was an appropriately magical world in the Athenian woods, one that ensured that a sometimes dark work didn't become too heavy. While the actors came across as ominous in the first act, the humor and comic timing got stronger throughout the night. And Britten's shimmering music, especially at the end of the second act, was captivating.

Peter Rose's hilarious Bottom and Victoria Livengood's Hippolyta were the chief holdovers from five years ago.

Daniels excelled both at singing and acting the countertenor role of Oberon, the fairy king, managing to carry off the necessary snarls to convey his authority over Tytania and Puck even while wearing a velvety green suit and shiny pink vest with two rows of brass-colored buttons.

Soprano Alexandra Deshorties (Tytania) overcame one extremely squalid high note early on and looked lovely when she fell in love with Bottom -- turned into a donkey by Puck -- and slept alongside him on the crescent moon. But, overall, she fell short of creating a captivating presence in her role as the fairy queen.

British soprano Susan Chilcott made her Met debut as Helena and floated some impressive piano notes, paired with mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak's somewhat restrained Hermia. Tenor Paul Groves (Lysander) and baritone Nathan Gunn (Demetrius) both sang strongly as the male lovers, and Jeffrey Wells, wearing a golden suit simulating a muscled bare chest, looked menacing is the short third act bass role of Theseus.

Rose was the standout among the six working men, doing some nice dancing with the Donkey head on and pairing with Barry Banks' Flute in ``Pyramus and Thisby,'' the play within a play. Justin Brill made his Met debut in the spoken role of Puck.

David Atherton, who conducted the original run, drew out all the colors of Britten's score. Puccini and Verdi might give the Met trouble, but in 20th century works the company excels.

Wed Apr 24 2002 (1:21:22 AM)