Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan in their respective elements: two defining styles of The Royal Ballet in a single programme. Ashton's one-act rendering of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream brings out the contrasts of mortal and fairy worlds as a disagreement between Oberon and Titania (the fairy king and queen) escalates to comic confusion.
Mendelssohn's music - the Overture, Scherzo and Wedding March are especially well known - is a perfect partner to the ballet's shifting moods, with witty invention and virtuoso dance that culminates in a powerful pas de deux for Oberon and Titania.
In Song of the Earth, the contemplative and poetic interpretation of Mahler's song-cycle - a setting of Chinese T'ang dynasty poetry - shows MacMillan in profound mood. In it, the transience of life is illuminated, especially through the moving interactions of the Man, the Woman and the enigmatic Messenger of Death. Barry Wordsworth, Music Director of The Royal Ballet, conducts the richly ranging music for a ballet programme that concludes with beauty and serenity.