Four chords in the winds open the curtain on Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, before a flurry of violins evoke an assembling swarm of sprites. Mendelssohn’s music captures the characters and preposterous action of Shakespeare’s comedy – not to mention its flamboyant spirit – from the mischievous fairies to the braying of the hapless Bottom-turned-Donkey. But for all its supernatural subject matter, a buzzing cello descent half way through the Overture has a more prosaic origin – the sound of a fly in the Mendelssohn family’s garden.
Mendelssohn wrote his Opus 21 concert overture on Shakespeare’s play when he was just 17 years old, yet it – along with the incidental music he wrote for the play 17 years later – is some of his best-loved music. It is fitting then that the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra will perform the incidental music, Overture and all, as part of its Shakespeare-themed 2018 season, which opened with Berlioz’s King Learin March and will reach a climax in October with Romeo Retold– a stand-alone concert to commemorate the TSO’s 70th anniversary – and a concert performance of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliettein collaboration with Victorian Opera.