Music - Felix Mendelssohn: Overture and Incidental Music to Midsummer Night's Dream,
Overture to Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, Overture to Heimkehr Aus Der Fremde,
excerpts from the Second Symphony and Symphony No. 3 (Scotch),
Andante-scherzando from Opus 87 String Quartet, and Overture to Fair Melusine.
Text courtesy of San Jose Cleveland Ballet Education Department, October 1999
Story of the ballet
Our story opens in Africa--in the midst of a battle. A battle of the sexes. The Greek army-led by Theseus, the duke of Athens--has gone to Africa to capture Amazon women, whom they will carry back to Athens and marry. At the height of the battle, Theseus captures Hippolyta, their queen. His men capture her women warriors. The women struggle to get free of the ropes the soldiers have used to bind them, but it is no use. The soldiers lead their brides-to- be back to Athens, where they will be married.
Cupid, in flight between the moon and the earth, sees the unhappy Hippolyta and takes aim at her with his bow and arrow, hoping to make her fall in love with her captor. Unfortunately, Cupid misses his target and hits a "love-in-idleness" flower instead. On being hit with Cupid's magical arrow, the white flower suddenly turns purple, and becomes magical itself. The flower's juice now has the power, when rubbed in a person's eyes, to make that person fall in love--with the first person they see!
The soldiers and their captives at last reach Athens. Theseus enters the palace, victorious at having captured a bride, and his subjects gather to hear the news. Among the people who have come to see the duke's bride-to-be carried into the palace in a cage like a captured animal are two young couples--Helena and Demetrius, and Hermia and Lysander. There are also some Athenian tradesmen--a weaver named Bottom, a carpenter named Quince, a bellowsmender named Flute, a joiner named Snug and a tailor named Starvling.
After Hippolyta is introduced, the tradesmen go into the woods to rehearse a play they will perform in honor of Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding, and Theseus goes about his business of hearing disputes among his subjects. Egeus, Hermia's father, complains to the duke that Lysander has bewitched his daughter. Hermia's father wants her to many Demetrius, and asks that the duke enforce a law that she obey him or be put to death. When Hermia and Lysander hear this, they run to the woods to elope. Demetrius chases them, and Helena who loves Demetrius chases after him
Puck, the mischievous elf who sweeps the homes of the immortals is also in the woods, sweeping the Kingdom of the Fairies. Tatiana, the fairy queen is dancing and playing with her sprites and fairies. At her side is a little Indian boy, the orphaned child of one of Tatiana's closest mortal friends. Tatiana has adopted the child as her own. When the Shadow King, Oberon, asks Tatiana to give him the little boy, she refuses. The boy and the fairies are frightened, but Tatiana reassures them and they go to her bower to rest. Oberon waits until Tatiana is asleep and sends Puck to find the magical purple "love-in-idleness" flower so he can make Tatiana fall in love with him and give him the little boy.
Puck watches as Oberon sprinkles juice from the flower over Tatiana's eyes, and then heads to another part of the woods`to make more mischief. He finds the tradesmen rehearsing their play---a man mistakenly thinks his true love is dead and kills himself; the lady, who is not dead, finds his body and kills herself also. The workmen's inept acting turns this tragedy into a comedy. The mischievous Puck, tired of their play, turns Bottom into an ass.
Hermia and Lysander are trying to escape Demetrius and Helena and are now deep in the forest when Oberon sees the four. He orders Puck to solve the tangled pairings by enchanting Demetrius so he will love Helena and leave Hermia in peace to marry Lysander. Puck finds Hermia and Lysander asleep in the forest and mistakes them for Demetrius and Helena. He sprinkles their eyes with juice from the magic flower and waits. But Helena, lost in the woods, awakens Lysander. Because he is enchanted, he sees her and instantly falls in love. Helena is startled and runs away, and Lysander chases her deeper into the woods. Hermia wakes to find herself alone and wanders into the woods to find Lysander.
Meanwhile, Oberon has discovered Puck's mistake and finds Demetrius asleep, so he attempts to correct the mistake, enchanting Demetrius' eyes. The fleeing Helena finds him, and is at first delighted when Demetrius wakes and declares he loves her. Then she is confused. Lysander, who has finally caught up with Helena, declares he loves her too. The two men are arguing over who loves Helena the most when Hermia arrives and is ignored by all. Poor Herrnia is distraught to find her Lysander now in love with Helena.
Later that night, when everyone has fallen asleep, Puck laughs about all the mischief he has caused these poor mortals. He doesn't realize the trouble he has caused the immortals-- for Bottom, now half-ass, stumbled upon the sleeping Tatiana and she is now in love with the silly creature. Puck knows Oberon will be furious, so he calls Oberon to reverse the enchantment. Oberon sprinkles the flower juice in Tatiana's eyes and gently wakes her. Tatiana is now in love with Oberon, but a little mad that he tricked her and embarrassed when she realizes she declared her love for an ass the night before. Puck, meanwhile, is sent to undo the tangle with the mortal lovers and reverse the enchantment on Lysander. He also reverses the enchantment on Bottom. And everyone heads back to the palace for the wedding.
Puck creates a fanfare with the sprites and the wedding of Theseus to Hippolyta, along with the four lovers, begins. Theseus and Hippolyta dance for the court then invite the four lovers to join them as Egeus looks on, resigned to the decision of his daughter to marry Lysander. The people of Athens erupt into joyful dancing at the conclusion of the ceremony. Back in the woods, Tatiana and Oberon are together, and Puck suggests that all the mischief may have been nothing but a midsummer night's dream.