A Midsummer Night’s Dream Synopsis
Music by Benjamin Britten
Libretto by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, adapted from Shakespeare
First performed: 1960
The wood, deepening twilight
The harmony of nature has been disturbed, because Oberon and Tytania have quarrelled over a young child, whom Tytania refuses to relinquish to her husband. Oberon decides to punish her and sends Puck in search of a magic flower. Four young Athenians have come to the wood: Hermia and Lysander wish to marry, but have fled Athens to escape her father’s order that’s he must marry Demetrius. The latter is being pursued by Helena, whom he does not love. Oberon decides that, with the aid of the magic flower, he will be able to make Demetrius return Helena’s love. Six rustics, led by Quince, the carpenter and Bottom, the weaver, meet up in the wood. They are preparing a play which they hope to perform in front of Theseus, Duke of Athens and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, to celebrate their wedding. Oberon squeezes the juice of the magic flower into the sleeping Tytania’s eyes: when she awakes she will fall in love with the first creature that she sees…
The wood, dark night
Tytania lies asleep while the rustics rehearse their play. To achieve Oberon’s vengeance, Puck transforms Bottom into an ass: Tytania awakes, sees him, and is enraptured. She summons four of her fairies to attend to her new lover, and then they fall asleep. Oberon observes his wife’s punishment with satisfaction, but is angry when he discovers that Puck has confused Demetrius with Lysander. Oberon’s attempt to correct this mistake makes things even worse: the two Athenian men who were in love with Hermia now both love Helena. When the four lovers quarrel violently, Oberon orders Puck to separate them and restore order…
The wood,early next morning
Oberon, now in possession of the disputed child is prepared to make peace with Tytania. He frees her from her infatuation and, reconciled, the leave together. The four lovers now awake: love renewed between Hermia and Lysander, and new-born between Helena and Demetrius. They decide to return to Athens to ask Duke Theseus’ permission to marry. The rustics lament the loss of their friend, Bottom, and the inevitable cancellation of their play. Bottom, now restored to human form, joins his friends and they leave joyfully.
Theseus pardons the young lovers, and gives them permission to marry. He then invites the rustics to perform their version of Pyramus and Thisbe. When midnight strikes, Theseus declares that it is time for bed. Oberon, Tytania, the fairies and Puck appear and bless the house.
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