*A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM op.487 (November 1995)

Songs and score for a film of The Royal Shakespeare Company's production, starring Alex Jennings and Lindsay Duncan.
Commissioned by: RSC and Channel 4 Film
Instrumentation: Flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon; horn, trumpet, trombone; percussion; harp, piano; strings (

[Key to Abbreviations]
Note on Lyrics: Shakespeare
Duration: 42 mins
First Performance: Recorded May 31-June 2 1996 Whitfield Studios, sound engineer Mike Ross, Marie Hegarty, Yvonne Howard, Susan Bickley (sopranos), The Philharmonia conducted by the composer
Recordings Available
A Midsummer night's dream
Released: 1st July 1998
Recorded: 31st May 1996
Artists: Complete soundtrack recording of the music for the 1995 Royal Shakespeare Company film directed by Adrian Noble. Mary Heggarty, Yvonne Howard (sopranos), Susan Bickley (mezzo), Philharmonia Orchestra, music composed and conducted by Howard Blake
Available from: Channel 4 television corporation Highbridge Music



Film of The Royal Shakespeare Company's version of Shakespeare's play, directed by Adrian Noble, produced by Paul Arnott, Ian Scase, Music editor Bob Hathaway, starring Alex Jennings and Lindsay Duncan.

Number 23 of the collection 'Lifecycle' is a piano transcription of the cue 'Oberon'

'Fairy song' was replaced by the Benedictus from the Festival Mass



In 1996, artistic director Adrian Noble filmed his RSC stage production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The concept is nothing if not stylized, utilizing Anthony Ward's primary color costumes and minimal scenic design, and the inventive lighting of Chris Parry. This time, the concept is the dream of a young boy who roams throughout the production witnessing the events. What may have appeared full of magic and mirth onstage is poorly suited to film.

Not so Howard Blake's score. Expanded from the stage production, the music contains a lushness that makes up for the spartan look of the film. It also employs a childlike simplicity and wonderment that perfectly suits a young boy's dream.

An attractive violin solo sings of love in the air, later sung by a mournful, wise viola during the "I know a bank" soliloquy. The entire orchestra joins in for a joyful rendition during the flight to fairyland. Umbrellas play a large role in the staging and solo woodwind triplets ascend into the heavens accompanied by pizzicato strings as the umbrellas take flight. Female voices seduce the ear, from a plaintive alto mermaid voice to the beautiful female trio waltzing through "Philomel with melody." A jaunty trumpet and oboe with slide trombone (which later bays with Nick Bottom's ass' head) accompanies the merry band of actors. A gentle string trio underscores the party and later provides a
tender backdrop for Bottom's final speech.

Blake's score captures more of the magic of Shakespeare's text than the awkward production. If you can
find a copy of the long-out-of-print import CD, it's definitely worth a listen.

Published in Film Score Monthly Magazine
Nov/Dec 2005
Volume 10, No. 6

film score magazine, 11/12/2005

Related Works

'*LIFECYCLE' op.489 (1996) (Audio Sample Available)
A sequence of 24 pieces for the piano - the complete 77 page album can be purchased by mail order
'*FESTIVAL MASS (for a cappella double choir)' op.377 (April 1987) (Audio Sample Available)
An eight-part a cappella setting of the mass in Latin for SSAATTBB. Commissioned for the Three Choirs Festival
A suite for 3 sopranos and small orchestra created from the music of Adrian Noble's Royal Shakespeare Company film

Related Autobiography Chapters


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