An introduction to A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Here’s what you need to know about ENO’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s an opera by British composer Benjamin Britten

One of the leading British composers of the post-war period, Britten composed no less than 16 operas, one full-length ballet, and more than 60 folk songs. Britten is perhaps best known for works such as his international success Peter Grimes, operetta Paul Bunyan, chamber opera The Turn of the Screw, and the choral masterpiece, War Requiem.

Britten composed A Midsummer Night’s dream in less than a year

This adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was first performed in 1960, at the reopening of the Jubilee Hall in in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Britten and his partner, Peter Pears, started working on the opera just one year earlier. Because of this, Britten and Pears decided to use a script that was already to hand – the opera’s libretto stays true to the script of Shakespeare’s play. Despite the short time frame Britten had to compose the opera and the health issues he faced throughout, the opera’s premiere was a success. It was described by the Times of London as “a major opera of the size and quality to follow Peter Grimes around the world”, which it did!

You’ll recognise the story line from Shakespeare’s play

Based in Athens, the opera follows no less than 14 different characters as they get tangled in complicated love triangles, mistaken identities and alarming transformations. This diverse ensemble is split into 3 different character groups: the Fairies, the Royals and the Rustics, who’s stories overlap when the fairy king, Oberon, tasks his Jester, Puck, with using the juice of a magic flower to teach Queen Tytania a lesson.

You can find out more about the characters in the opera in our A Midsummer Night’s Dream character guide.

This is the third revival of Robert Carsen’s magical production

‘A show that’s so much fun… comes up sparkling.’ ★★★★ The Guardian

First staged in 1995, this is the second time Canadian opera director Robert Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be brought to the London Coliseum.