"Intermezzo" has submitted an excellent and comprehensive review of the opening night of this classy new production, but I was so shocked to hear booing from neighbouring seats that perhaps I might be permitted to add this view from a relative opera novice? I've not seen this opera before, or even the Shakespeare play, so although I had nothing to compare it with, I also had nothing to miss in the way of woods, fairies, magic potions etc. As a result, the setting of a ~1950's boys school seemed perfectly natural. Shakespeare's "mechanicals" were represented by school caretakers and handymen and the "fairies" by a large pack of school boys, literally. Grey was all around, from the high, stark walls of the classrooms to the clothes and dustbins. Suddenly, the competition between Oberon and Tytania over a young pupil had a modern, all-too-imaginable context and Puck, the now ex-favourite, as a sulky teenager rang so true as well.

The first two acts were performed without a break and certainly the dramatic action benefitted from the intensity generated and culminated in a startling and very effective final scene - you will need to see it, I'll not give it away. Act III restored the natural order, with all the lovers quickly matched up with their proper partners. Oberon and Tytania departed and for me the rest of the act was mere padding, the lengthy play scene seeming something of an intrusive distraction from the main action, but it was colourful, well played out and not without some amusing moments although a few rather crude bursts were too jarring to be other than unnecessary tricks. The trick of wedding guests attending the performance from a box in the theatre, however, added some context.

It was a huge disappointment that Iestyn Davies, suffering from a chest infection, was unable to sing the lead role of Oberon on this opening night and furthermore his understudy was also indisposed; the solution was a last minute call to Glyndebourne for William Towers to ride to the rescue and he sang the part from a stalls-level box while Iestyn Davies acted the role on stage. This arrangement worked much better than it sounds for two main reasons: firstly, William Towers is himself no mean counter-tenor and did full justice to the part, and secondly, we did at least get to experience Iestyn Davies's extraordinarily skilful acting. Even when doing very little in the background, his presence was utterly mesmerising - a slow walk behind The Changling, leaning against a wall, taking off his glasses, rolling up his sleeves - all small, totally controlled actions which still summoned a feeling of menace and oppression. I might also congratulate him on his ballroom dancing skills which, whilst very much third in the list of singing, acting, dancing, did embrace the tricky task of dancing up a flight of stairs. But it really is his extraordinarily skilful singing we should have liked to hear and I hope he will recover quickly for the remaining performances.

Anna Christy's Tytania was very well sung although her school ma'am strictness was perhaps more convincing than her unbridled passion. From my spot in the gods, the two pairs of lovers looked very similar and it was only by their voices that I could distinguish them, but that I could says it all. Willard White was, of course, a joy to hear and his handling of the tricky Bottom scene kept faith with the modern setting. It took a while to "get" the role of the tall, silent observer (so well done by Paul Whelan), but that just added to satisfaction of working it out in the end. The boys played their parts extremely well, from their still opening lines, to their drug-fuelled abandon and prison-breakout-style rhythmic hammering on the walls.

Overall, I can't say I enjoyed the opera; it didn't send me away with the lightness of heart and exhilaration of, say, one by Handel; indeed it left me rather unsettled and somewhat dispirited. But its inspired setting, so well executed, shone light on a disturbing, regrettably still relevant facet of power and human darkness - it made me think in a way that wooded glades and fairies could never have done and left some lasting flashes of scarily-brilliant relevance imprinted in my memory. Despite not really liking Britten's music (or, whisper it, Shakespeare's plays), I can't wait to see it again.