top of page

SCENE IT: CT Philharmonic Orchestra enchants with Mendelssohn's Midsummer Opus at Maynardville

Barbara Loots


The magic of the Maynardville Open-Air Festival is back under the guidance of the dynamic team of VR Theatrical until 5 March 2023. It kicked off its Shakespeare inspired Midsummer fun on Thursday night with an enchanting performance by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opus 61.

For opening night, the weather was perfect, and the audience excited. Hearing an orchestra tuning up before a performance always evokes a great sense of anticipation. This is even more so when you hear them from beyond a lush garden curtain, ready to delight all. With this setting, Maynardville is absolutely perfect for an orchestra of the caliber of the Cape Town Philharmonic to bring to life Mendelssohn’s Shakespearean dream.

People may think they don’t know anything about Mendelssohn’s Op. 61, but they would be mistaken. Along with Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, I would bet that more people know Mendelssohn’s Midsummer music (or at least in part) than they may think. If you’ve ever heard the wedding march, you have Felix Mendelssohn (and by implication Shakespeare) to thank for it.

That the wedding march has its roots in this beloved Shakespearean classic is actually no surprise when one considers that the theme that runs through Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (with a good dose of mischief) is love. Mendelssohn truly encapsulates the essence of this comedy with the beautiful musical movements he weaved together with his Opus 61: playful, busy at times, while also lingering with spirited anticipation. It’s actually hard to believe that he was a mere 17 years old when he was first inspired to express the whimsy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with such clear orchestral vision.

Even if you still believe you know nothing of Mendelssohn’s Op.61, Conductor Brandon Phillips and the Orchestra have joined forces with FMR presenter John Woodland as narrator to guide the audience, and bring story and opus together, along with the fairy like vocals of the ladies of the choral group, Vox Cape Town, which Woodland also directs. Together they gift the audience an enchanting night of music, fairies and love-inspired mischief under the stars of Cape Town.

I think the Bard would approve. What a great way to kick-off the revival of the Maynardville Open-Air-Theatre.

You have one more opportunity, 21 January, to let Mendelssohn’s music charm you into a Shakespearean dream courtesy of the talented Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, before the Cape Town Opera steps into the moonlit spotlight with Songs of Shakespeare (26 and 28 January) and Spirituals (27 and 29 January). Thereafter Puck and the Bard’s fairies truly come out to play with a staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The festivities under the stars conclude with Cape Town City Ballet’s Summersnow from 1 to 5 March. You can book tickets for all these performances online through Quicket.

Just a heads up that although Maynardville Open-Air Theatre is back, it is a bit different. Patrons are now asked to purchase picnic baskets online along with their show tickets or buy something to eat and drink at the provided food trucks if they wish to truly enjoy the charm of the park before each show. The bringing of your own food and drink is unfortunately now a lovely memory, but it looked as if the people we saw munching away at the delights on offer were enjoying themselves still. Just keep this change in mind when you weigh up your wallet when planning your Maynardville moonlit night out.


bottom of page