New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Ballet in Two Acts and Six Scenes
Founders: George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master: Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Resident Choreographer: Justin Peck
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 26, 2016
(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Conductor: Andrew Litton
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1962): Music by Felix Mendelssohn, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Hays, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Miriam Miller as Titania, Anthony Huxley as Oberon, Harrison Ball as Puck, Brittany Pollack as Helena, Ashley Laracey as Hermia, Cameron Dieck as Lysander, Peter Walker as Demetrius, Georgina Pazcoguin as Hippolyta, Andrew Scordato as Theseus, Silas Farley as Titania’s Cavalier, Harrison Coll as Bottom, Claire Von Enck as Butterfly, Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring in Divertissement, Musica Sacra, Kent Tritle, Music Director, Children from The School of American Ballet as Oberon’s Kingdom, Butterflies and Fairies, and the Company as Butterflies, Oberon’s and Titania’s Pages, Bottom’s Companions, Courtiers to Theseus, Titania’s Retinue, Hippolyta’s Hounds, Courtiers, and Divertissement Dancers.
The Mendelssohn ballet score includes music composed for the Shakespeare play, during a seventeen-year period, as well as a variety of overtures. The play relates adventures and misadventures, through reality and illusion, including requited and unrequited love, even between a fair queen and a donkey. Midsummer Night is June 23rd (St. John’s Eve), when fairies are present during the summer solstice of fertility rites and festivals. The 1595 play was also the source for a one-act Ashton ballet and a Britten opera. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was Balanchine’s first full-length ballet that he choreographed in the US, and it opened New York City Ballet’s first repertory season at Lincoln Center in 1964. (NYCB Notes).
There was a rare level of energy in the house tonight, with Andrew Litton, City Ballet’s new Music Director, back in the pit, and with the youthful trio of Miriam Miller, Anthony Huxley, and Harrison Ball performing as Titania, Oberon, and Puck in Balanchine’s two-act A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Mendelssohn score always opens with swirling strings, as children from The School of American Ballet scamper and run as butterflies and fairies. But, tonight, Mr. Litton expanded the theatricality with a more buzzing sound from the orchestra, with strings humming and sizzling in dervish tempo. It was certainly different, and the children kept up with the rhythm, as we we’re transported to a woodland scene, a forest near Athens, on Midsummer Eve.
Ms. Miller, as Titania, was wooed by Mr. Huxley, as Oberon, with a large feathery bed to rest on, right amidst the forest and flowers. The first Act, with this duo’s (and several additional duo’s) unrequited love unfolding, against some poignant and comedic histrionics, is followed by the second Act, where love conquers and a regal wedding unfolds. In fact, Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, written as incidental music for Shakespeare’s play, comes to life in the Overture and Act II of this score. Balanchine fashioned the score from Mendelssohn’s Overture, incidental music, and other Mendelssohn pieces, such as a nocturne, intermezzo, and part of his Ninth Symphony (NYCB Notes).
As Titania, the tall, poised Ms. Miller was quietly presented, stately, and ethereal. She’s first filled with protection for herself and her Changeling child, but later melts with ardor. As Oberon, Mr. Huxley was yearning, sensitive, sophisticated, and patient. Both danced with understated theatricality. Harrison Ball, as Puck, danced a truly breakout role, with lightning leaps and maturity of manner. His jumps were primal, silent, well formed. As the story goes, a long red rose, dusted against the face of a sleeping character, forces that character to fall in love with the first person he/she sees on awakening.
Today’s cast made much of those roses, and Helena (Brittany Pollack), Demetrius (Peter Walker), Hermia (Ashley Laracey), and Lysander (Cameron Dieck), all fell in and out of love with each other, with silent-film-worthy racing about, chasing whomever they awoke to see in that moment. Of course, as this comedy proceeds, all is well at the conclusion, and couples are paired off as they should be. Those campy scenes are always priceless. This young cast ramped up the passion, persuasion, and pathos with superb mime. Georgina Pazcoguin was unparalleled, an extraordinary Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, dashing off her 32 fouettés in double turns, within her stunning mythological motif. Andrew Scordato, as Theseus, Duke of Athens, threw himself into the moment, and Claire Von Enck, as Butterfly, was omnipresent and lyrical in this dreamlike ballet about a dream. Silas Farley, as Titania’s Cavalier, was magnetic and chivalrous. Harrison Coll, in keeping with tonight’s youthful, eloquent cast, was an endearing and vulnerable Bottom, a donkey anyone could love.
In the Act II Divertissement, Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring danced in the midst of a midnight forest in June. This is the central Pas de Deux of Balanchine’s ballet, and the couple should be mutually charismatic and filled with elegance and luminosity. Both Ms. Stafford and Mr. Danchig-Waring danced with seasoned skill, but there was little chemistry or strength in the partnership. A mismatch here is highly noticeable, and I have seen this Divertissement danced with much more impact on several occasions. However, the duo mastered the choreography effectively. The Courtiers in this Act II Wedding scene, in the Court of Theseus in Athens, were Balanchine-esque, with ensembles in dance designs that branched into moving patterns and figures that persistently engaged the eye. The solo singers and Musica Sacra kept the Mendelssohn score textured and full, and Maestro Litton showcased City Ballet Orchestra, especially its strings and horns, with aplomb. David Hays’ scenery is worth the experience alone, as are Karinska’s costumes, with wings, feathers, jewels, and silk. Mark Stanley had a large task in Ronald Bates’ shifting lighting, and he mastered it with expertise. Kudos to George Balanchine.
Kudos to Peter Martins and New York City Ballet for a splendid Spring 2016 Season.
Miriam Miller and Anthony Huxley in Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik
Georgina Pazcoguin in Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik