A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • Choreographer: Bruce Wells (1989, 1991, 1995); George Balanchine (2004)
  • Music: Felix Mendelssohn
  • Costumes: Edward Baker (1989, 1991, 1995); Martin Pakledinaz (2004)
  • Lighting: Craig Miller (1989, 1991); Robert Steineck (1995); Randall G. Chiarelli (2004)
  • World Premiere: New York City Ballet, January 16, 1962
  • PBT Performance Date: October 12-15, 1989; May 11-14, 1995; April 15-18, 2004;

Program Notes

Synopsis (from PBT playbill, 2004; adapted from 101 Stories of the Great Ballets by George Balanchine and Francis Mason)

A forest newar Athens, one Midsummer Eve

In a forest near the duke’s palace Oberon, King of the Fairies, and Titania, his queen, quarrel over the Indian child they both want. Oberon orders Puck to bring the flower pierced by Cupid’s arrow which causes anyone coming under its influence to fall in love with the first person the eyes behold, and while Titania is asleep and unknowing, he casts the flower’s spell over her.

Meanwhile, Helena, wandering in the woods, meets Demetrius, whom she loves but who does not love her. Demetrius rejects her and goes his way. Oberon watches and tells Puck to use the flower on Demetrius that he may return Helena’s affection.

Another couple, Hermia and Lysander, very much in love, are also wandering in the forest. They become separated. Puck, eager to carry out Oberon’s orders, mistakenly anoints Lysander. Helena appears, and Lysander, under the flower’s spell, at once and to her amazement tells her how much he loves her.

Hermia now returns. She is astonished and then dismayed to see Lysander paying attention only to Helena. Puck manages to bring Demetrius, too, under the flower’s spell, much to the delight of Helena, who doesn’t care for Lysander at all.

Demetrius and Lysander, now both in love with Helena, begin to quarrel over her. Puck, at Oberon’s order, has separated Bottom, a weaver, from his companions and transformed his head into that of an ass and placed him at the sleeping Titania’s feet. Awakening, Titania sees Bottom, thinks him fair, and pays him close and loving attention. At last Oberon, his anger over, has Bottom sent away and releases Titania from her spell.

Hermia now gets no attention, Helena too much. The men, completely at odds, quarrel seriously and begin to fight. Puck, by his magic, causes them to separate, lose one another and wander apart in the forest until exhausted, they fall asleep, with Puck arranging for Helen to fall asleep beside Demetrius and Lysander (spell removed) by Hermia.

The Duke and Hippolyta discover the lovers asleep in the forest, awaken them, find their differences resolved and proclaim a triple wedding for themselves and the two couples.

We return to the demesne of Oberon and Titania, who are now reunited and at peace. And at last Puck, having put order into disorder, sweeps away the remnants of the night’s doings. The fireflies twinkle in the night and reclaim the forest.