A Little Night Music (1973) might be said to begin where Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) ends, for that film finishes with a song.' After a night of lovemaking with Petra, Frid is so moved by "the sight of her rounded thighs . . . that he begins to sing." 2 Frid's lusty singing echoes across these two texts, and while he has no song in the official version of the musical play, the impulse toward music, which Frid's song represents, survives in the very act of musicalizing this Bergman film. 3
While A Little Night Music has this explicit and unarguable source, I believe that we can usefully identify and explore the echoes of another text in this Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler-Harold Prince collaboration, namely Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This essay does not presume to suggest that Sondheim, Wheeler, or Prince (or Bergman, for that matter) consciously or deliberately adapted Shakespeare's play, nor is it in any way concerned with hypothesizing about their unconscious motivations. Rather, my approach is intertextual, perhaps in a more purely Kristevan sense; that is, I am interested in how certain signs (in this case, elements of Shakespeare's play) come to be transposed and rearticulated in these later texts-reinscriptions that do not reflect authorial intention so much as the inevitable presence of these signs within the textual systems of the romantic comedy.