It's hard to write a review when all you really want to do is gurgle incoherently. Forgive the indulgence, but Robert Carsen's much-travelled production of Britten's operatic nocturne has returned to the place where it all began on a night 24 years ago that changed the direction of my life forever. And I know I'm not alone in that.

The prospect of this revival prompted mixed emotions. Would it still measure up? Might it have dated or, worse, grown coarser down the years? Was memory so infused with sentiment that rediscovery could only be a letdown? With Carsen himself on hand to oversee things there was no need to worry. If anything, his midnight palette of green and blue had grown more beautiful with age – probably because so much recent opera has been brutalised by grey walls and half-light.

Sandrine Piau (Tytania) with the Trinity Boys Choir © Patrick Berger
Sandrine Piau (Tytania) with the Trinity Boys Choir
© Patrick Berger

It's not only the production that's come home. A perfectly drilled cohort from the Trinity Boys Choir, 2015 vintage, is back as the moustachioed mini-valet fairies, red gloves clutching green lapels. Now, moreover, as then, it's a co-production with the Opéra de Lyon, represented here by its own orchestra under the loving guidance of its principal conductor, Kazushi Ono. And the redoubtable tenor Christopher Gillett from that 1991 company is also on hand, as he has been at 13 revivals since, except this time (in deference to Anno Domini) he's the stonewalling Snout rather than the boyish Flute.

From the opening motif of sleepy scoops on low strings, Britten's score is rich in the sounds of nature, first asleep then weirdly alive. A Midsummer Night's Dream is so infused with bucolic scent that it ridicules attempts to transpose it to alien settings. That's not to say it demands realism; far from it, for this is fairyland, which is why the breathtaking green-and-white bedscape conceived by Carsen and designer Michael Levine is so enchanting. What we see chimes in perfectly with what we hear. It hasn't pleased everyone, mind. Some have bridled at its cartoonish treatment of the lovers, others at the antics of an over-age Puck (Britten had an adolescent in mind), and I recall one critic who dismissed the whole thing on its ENO transfer as European chic. I hope he's happy with what replaced it.

Aix's celebratory revival has an unbeatable cast and it purrs along with the confidence of a project that has nothing left to prove. Lawrence Zazzo is Oberon, noble of mien and all in green, and unlike some countertenors he has no difficulty in expressing nuance and dramatic conviction through his voice. Sandrine Piau, sleek and slinky, is in irresistible voice as Tytania, embracing both the score and Brindley Sherratt's impeccable Bottom with equal ardour. As Puck, Miltos Yerolemou has it all: a scorching twinkle in his eye, the richest of speaking voices and fearless tumbling skills as befit his background at the Jacques Lecoq School. He's been Carsen's Puck of choice since 2008 and he's the best yet.

Those other clowns, Shakespeare's hard-handed men of Athens, exploit the visual humour of Pyramus and Thisbe for all its worth. Theirs is a properly international brand of comedy, from Henry Waddington's bumbling Quince and the shrivelled Starveling of Simon Butteriss to Michael Slattery's epicene young Flute and Brian Bannatyne-Scott's Snug, a cowardly lion straight from Oz. Brindley Sherratt's star quality is a special bonus, of course. Was there ever a more mellifluous Bottom? His rich, finely controlled singing lends distinction and subtlety to every scene he's in, ass head on or off.

Shakespeare's hapless, hopeless lovers are just as well matched. Rupert Charlesworth as Lysander is the brooding romantic, all flowing locks and charm, in contrast to John Chest's boyish Demetrius, while Leyla Claire's maypole Helena is the perfect foil for Elizabeth DeShong's acorn-like Hermia. All four voices blend together or grate against one another with shrewdly judged musicality. DeShong in particular throws some thrilling vocal acrobatics at her character without a trace of shame or restraint. Even Scott Conner and Allyson McHardy, in the bespangled throwaway roles of Theseus and Hippolyta, make their mark late on by injecting earthly dignity into the midnight mayhem.

How I envied the first-timers as they gasped audibly at Carsen's coups de théâtre (the opening of act three can trump the priciest helicopter effect) or exchanged rapt words of wonderment on leaving the Archevêché and stepping into the heat of early-morning Aix-en-Provence. If you only ever see two versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, make it this and Peter Hall's Glyndebourne production. If only one, Carsen's is the Dream to see – and Aix is the place to see it.