A ballet about the transforming power of love, George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, is based on William Shakespeare's comedy about the romantic adventures and misadventures, quarrels and reunitings, of two pairs of mortal lovers and the king and queen of the fairies. The ballet, through its themes of reality versus illusion, change versus constancy, displays love in all its guises.
In the first act there are dances of unrequited love and love that is reconciled. There is a pas de deux for the Fairy Queen, Titania and Bottom, who has been turned into an Ass -- a perfect illustration in dance of the old proverb, "love is blind."
In the second act, which opens with Mendelssohn's familiar Wedding March, there is a pas de deux representing Ideal untroubled love. Midsummer Night, which is June 23rd (St. John's Eve), has long been associated with love and magic. In European folklore it is the one night of the year when supernatural beings such as fairies are about and can interact with the real world. It is also a date that falls near the summer solstice, which in earlier civilizations was traditionally a time for fertility rites and festivals devoted to love. Shakespeare's 1595 play has been the source for films, an opera by Benjamin Britten (1960), and a one-act ballet by Frederick Ashton, called The Dream(1964).
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