The Dream Historical Note
by Sandra Evan-Jones
Frederick Ashton’s The Dream was choreographed for The Royal Ballet to mark the quarter centenary of the birth of William Shakespeare. Ashton was well acquainted with the play A Midsummer Night's Dream having set the dances for two productions of Henry Purcell's opera The Fairy Queen which was based on Shakespeare’s play. In 1946, Ashton returned to the opera, this time to choreograph a production at the Royal Opera House, with the Covent Garden Opera and the Sadler's Wells Ballet. He also set the dances for two productions of the play itself: the first in 1945 with John Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft and the second in 1954 for the Old Vic Company, using some of the incidental music written by Mendelssohn for the play.
The Dream received its first performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on April 2, 1964 as part of a Shakespeare triple bill staged by The Royal Ballet. The original cast of The Dream featured Antoinette Sibley as Titania and Anthony Dowell as Oberon, marking the beginning of their partnership. Puck was danced by Keith Martin and Bottom by Alexander Grant.
The Dream is danced by such companies as The Australian Ballet, The Royal Swedish Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and Het National Ballet. It was first performed by The National Ballet of Canada in a new production with scenery and costumes by David Walker on February 16, 1978 at the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto, with Karen Kain, Luc Amyot, David Roxander and Jacques Gorrissen in the leading roles.