A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Britten’s opera is based on Shakespeare’s popular comedy, which follows the consequences of a falling-out between the fairy-king Oberon and his queen, Tytania. Mistaken identities, confused lovers and alarming transformations are the result.
From the sliding string chords of the magic wood to the rustics’ well-intentioned entertainment, Britten’s ear for beguiling orchestration and melodic invention will enchant and entice you.
Oberon and Tytania have quarrelled over a boy whom Tytania refuses to relinquish to her husband. Oberon decides to punish her and sends Puck in search of a magic flower. Four young people appear: Hermia and Lysander wish to marry, but have run away to escape her father’s order that she 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 reciprocate Helena’s love. Six rustics, led by Quince and Bottom, meet to prepare a play which they hope to perform in front of Theseus and Hippolyta, 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.
Bottom and his companions rehearse their play. Puck transforms Bottom into an ass. Tytania awakes, sees Bottom, and is enraptured. She summons four of her attendants to wait on her new lover, and then she and Bottom fall asleep. Oberon observes this 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 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.
Oberon, now in possession of the disputed boy, is prepared to make peace with Tytania. He frees her from her infatuation and husband and wife are reconciled. The four young people wake up: love is renewed between Hermia and Lysander, and new-born between Helena and Demetrius. They decide to ask Theseus’s permission to marry. The rustics lament the loss of their friend Bottom, and the inevitable cancellation of their play. Bottom, now restored to normal, 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 entertainment at his and Hippolyta’s wedding reception. When midnight strikes, Theseus declares that it is time for bed. Oberon, Tytania, the fairies and Puck appear and give their blessing.