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Introduction

A disagreement between Oberon, King of the Fairies, and his Queen, Titania, escalates, resulting in comic misunderstandings and the collision of human and supernatural worlds.

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Background

Frederick Ashton’s The Dream is based on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ballet had its premiere in 1964 as part of a Royal Ballet programme commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. It was performed alongside Kenneth MacMillan’s Images of Love and Robert Helpmann’s Hamlet – both also based on works by Shakespeare. The roles of Oberon and Titania were created for Anthony Dowell and Antoinette Sibley, marking the beginning of their enduring and celebrated dance partnership.

Ashton captures all the comic confusion of Shakespeare’s play in inventive choreography. The high-spirited misadventures of the two pairs of mortal lovers combine with the humorous cavorting of Bottom, who dances en pointe after being transformed into an ass. The ballet culminates in a powerful pas de deux for Oberon and Titania, which moves through a stormy conflict of wills to a harmonious union. Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for the play, including the well-known Overture, Scherzo, Nocturne and Wedding March, provides a perfect partner to Ashton’s choreography.