In ACT ONE, the young woman Hermia is scheduled to marry Demetrius, according to her father's wishes. But she's actually in love with another man, Lysander. And Demetrius is also already engaged, to a woman named Helena. Hoping to avoid this double mismatch, the two couples leave town.
Miriam Allan, soprano
Lucy Crowe, soprano
Claire Debono, soprano
Anna Devin, soprano
Helen-Jane Howells, soprano
Rachel Redmond, soprano
Carolyn Sampson, soprano
Robert Burt, tenor
Sean Clayton, tenor
Ed Lyon tenor,
Adrian Ward tenor,
Lukas Kargl baritone,
John Mackenzie baritone,
Andrew Foster-Williams, bass-baritone
Desmond Barrit, bass
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
William Christie, conductor
Hermia (Susannah Wise, left) and Helena (Helen Bradbury) are both engaged to the wrong men in "The Fairy Queen."
The Mechanicals attempt to stage their play of Pyramus and Thisbe in Act 5 of Purcell's "The Fairy Queen" from the BBC Proms.
The Mechanicals attempt to stage their play of Pyramus and Thisbe in Act 5 of Purcell's "The Fairy Queen" from the BBC Proms. Chris Christodoulou
Nearby in the woods, the fairy queen Titania is also avoiding a troublesome relationship — hiding from her jealous husband, King Oberon. She has fairies at hand to entertain her, and for fun, they torment a drunken poet.
In ACT TWO, Titania and Oberon are still quarreling. As a diversion, Titania turns the woods into a picturesque wonderland. Fairies keep her amused with songs and dances. Eventually, she orders them to sing a lullaby. While she's asleep, Oberon sprinkles her eyes with juice from a magic flower.
In the THIRD ACT — thanks to that magic — Titania falls in love with Bottom, who has the head of a donkey. Trying to seduce him, she changes the scene to a magical forest, complete with a river bridged by the bodies of dragons, with swans in the water beneath them. Here, the entertainment is provided by fauns, dryads and nymphs, until they're driven away by four green savages. The act concludes with the song of a nymph, a dance of haymakers and a final chorus.
In ACT FOUR, Titania is still with Bottom. The two have fallen asleep, along with the two mismatched couples, Hermia and Demetrius plus Helena and Lysander.
Oberon wakes Titania and Bottom, and Titania works some magic of her own. She turns the scene to a lush garden of fountains. It's Oberon's birthday, and for the celebration, the sun god Phoebus floats in on a cloud, followed by characters representing the four seasons, and there's a spectacle of songs and dancing.
In ACT FIVE, the Duke of Theseus finally allows the two couples to be matched up as they wish: Hermia with Lysander, and Demetrius with Helena. They tell him about the wondrous events that have happened so far, but he doesn't really believe them. So Oberon puts his own magical powers on display. He conjures the goddess Juno, riding on a chariot drawn by peacocks, and to represent paradise, there's a lush Chinese Garden. Finally, the God of Marriage himself appears, and the entertainment ends with a joyful ballet and chorus.