This time, they have reverted to Robert Carsen’s classic version which was first seen at the London Coliseum in 1995 and is hugely enjoyable.
The story and libretto follow Shakespeare’s play, but with added humour in Carsen’s witty version.
The huge bed revealed on stage when the curtain goes up emphasizes the dreamy aspect of the tale, and while Oberon, Tytania and most of the other fairies and sprites are all taking it rather seriously, comic relief is excellently provided by the actor Miltos Yerolemou in the speaking role of Puck and a splendid bunch of rustics performing the Pyramus and Thisbe play-within-a-play in genuinely funny style.
When polished professionals play the parts of rank amateurs, the result can be hilarious, and in this case they succeed in fine style.
Some opera singers display surprisingly good comic timing, as this group showed.
Most of the fun, however, comes after the interval.
My feeling that the first half was uninspiring was confirmed when I heard a gentleman sitting further down my row snoring rather loudly until he slumped forward and was woken up by his companion.
Britten’s music is always a triumph of orchestration, but the orchestra has nearly all the good tunes and listening to the singers is rather unfulfilling and, as this seemed to show, sleep-inducing.
The music adds little to Shakespeare’s play while often detracting and distracting from it.
I’d love to know what dreams were inspired in the snorer though.
In the second half, as Bottom, Quince, Snout, Starveling and company are having fun, it all gets far more accessible and even Britten seemed to relax and show a bit of humour in his composition.
Despite my usual reservations about Britten, I must admit that I greatly enjoyed it.
Box Office: 020 7845 9300 or www.eno.org (in production until March 15)