“OH HELL! TO CHOOSE LOVE BY ANOTHER’S EYES”: BRITTEN’S MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, INSCRIBED TO CONDUCTOR MEREDITH DAVIES
BRITTEN, Benjamin. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Opera in Three Acts. Op. 64. Libretto adapted from William Shakespeare by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Vocal Score by Imogen Holst and Martin Penny. London: Boosey & Hawkes, (1960). Quarto, original paper wrappers. $3800.
First edition of the piano-vocal score, inscribed by Britten on the title page to Meredith Davies, who conducted the North American premiere of the opera in 1961: “For Meredith with every good wish from Benjamin Britten. Aldeburgh 1960.”
Realizing that he did not have enough time to commission a libretto for a new opera to be performed at the opening of Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh, Britten turned with his friend and confidante Peter Pears to Shakespeare, discarding half the text of Dream and distributing some of the rest among other parts; the opera was completed in under seven months, and first performed at Aldeburgh in 1960 with Pears as Flute and Britten conducting. “Shakespeare has suffered some terrible operatic settings, and yet he has also inspired four or five of the greatest operas ever written, Arguably, one of these is Britten’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream" (Boyden, 594). “A magnificently rich operatic score” (New Grove 3:294). Meredith Davies, one of the great British conductors of the 20th century, worked closely with Britten over the course of two decades. In addition to presenting the North American premiere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he also conducted its 1961 performance at the Aldeburgh festival and was chosen to conduct (along with Britten himself) at the historic first performance of Britten’s War Requiem at Coventry Cathedral in 1962. Text in German and English. Signed by Davies in pencil on the front cover, occasional pencil notations throughout.
Interior fine, light wear and soiling to original wraps. A near-fine inscribed copy with a fine association.