New York City Ballet
(NYC Ballet Website)
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ballet in Two Acts
Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 21, 2005
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
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 Darci Kistler as Titania, Joaquin De Luz as Oberon, Albert Evans as Puck, Alexandra Ansanelli as Helena, Rachel Rutherford as Hermia, Jared Angle as Lysander, Arch Higgins as Demetrius, Teresa Reichlen as Hippolyta, Henry Seth as Theseus, Charles Askegard as Titania's Cavalier, James Fayette as Bottom, Amanda Edge as Butterfly, Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal in Divertissement, Singers: Courtenay Budd, Rosalie Sullivan, and Chorus, Children from The School of American Ballet as Oberon's Kingdom, Butterflies and Fairies, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, 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).
What an enchanting and endearing, upbeat event! The plot is a bit cumbersome, Puck wreaking havoc from the aroma of a magical rose, shifting lovers to unlikely partners, even a queen, who adores a makeshift donkey, and then re-shifting them just in time for a grand wedding, to none other than Mendelssohn's Wedding March. Seemingly dozens of cherubic, tiny dancers as butterflies and fairies appear in the woodland scenes, with twinkling lights and silhouetted forms. They flutter and fly in hurried fashion, so colorful and innocent, a lovely scene to behold. This is a visually resplendent ballet, with Karinska's exceptional costumes and David Hays' scintillating scenery, a vehicle for the entire corps, with a dozen good roles for principals in this magical dream.
Albert Evans, as Puck, was so in character and costume that he seemed supernatural, a fashionable fantasy creature of the night. His leaps and grins and childlike poses were sublimely entertaining. Darci Kistler, as Titania, had the regal essence so inherent in the role, and, perfectly cast, she added grace and elegance, a vivacious vision. Joaquin De Luz showed his roaring fans the aero-techniques that they were craving. Mr. De Luz is an exciting and world-class dancer, with an irresistible smile and aggressive agility. With a blond wig and golden costume, he was ready to seize the moment. Another star of this two-act ballet was Wendy Whelan, in her all too brief Divertissement with an attentive partner, Philip Neal. Just two days after the passion of Jock Soto's Farewell matinee, in which Ms. Whelan figured prominently with Jock Soto, her quintessential partner, it was hard to see her in this more detached pas de deux.
The various lovers, shifted and re-matched, included Alexandra Ansanelli as Helena, always youthful and fresh, Rachel Rutherford as Hermia, classic and porcelain, and Jared Angle and Arch Higgins as the mixed-up suitors, both excellent with requisite mime and lyricism. Henry Seth, as Theseus, a Duke, was characteristically courtly, but non-descript. Charles Askegard, as Titania's Cavalier, seemed to lack the electricity of this charged affair, where Ms. Kistler glistened and drew us in. Amanda Edge has a bright-eyed demeanor that adds energy to her dance, while Teresa Reichlen, as Hippolyta, an Amazon Queen, bounded across the stage with pure physicality and poise. This is a dancer possessed with power and passion, one who rivets the audience in her every move.
Another surreal star was on display in James Fayette, who donned his donkey face, right before us, and literally fell to all fours, walking and dancing as only a donkey could. When the donkey face was removed, Mr. Fayette came out of character in instantaneous imagery. This is one of the most theatrical dancers onstage these days. The corps and children from SAB were busy all night, and their glee was infectious. It's nice to see a dreamlike, full-length, fairy tale danced once in awhile, with the characters still alive at curtain fall, and the children in the audience seemed enthralled. Mark Stanley's lighting, after Ronald Bates' original design, was as complicated as the plot, with eery and ethereal effects. Karinska's costumes shone both in the nighttime forest glen and in the daytime wedding court. Shakespeare in Greece never looked or sounded so lovely. Andrea Quinn kept the orchestra dynamic, through all of Mendelssohn's melodic overtures.
Kudos to Peter Martins and NYC Ballet for a splendid Spring 2005 Season. I look forward to Fall 2005 and the unexpected surprises, always in store for seasoned and new NYC Ballet audiences. Kudos to George Balanchine.
Alexandra Ansanelli, Arch Higgins and Albert Evans in NYCB's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik
Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard in NYCB's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik