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New York City Ballet: A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2015, Cast Two

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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 Designate, Andrew Litton
Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate, Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 6, 2015

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Daniel Capps

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 Teresa Reichlen as Titania, Daniel Ulbricht as Oberon, Troy Schumacher as Puck, Brittany Pollack as Helena, Ashley Laracey as Hermia, Russell Janzen as Lysander, Zachary Catazaro as Demetrius, Georgina Pazcoguin as Hippolyta, Andrew Scordato as Theseus, Justin Peck as Titania’s Cavalier, Harrison Coll as Bottom, Claire Von Enck as Butterfly, Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar 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).

Daniel Capps lifted his baton, and we were transported to a woodland scene, a forest near Athens, on Midsummer Eve, where Teresa Reichlen, as Titania, was wooed by Daniel Ulbricht, as Oberon, with a large feathery bed to rest on, right amidst the forest and flowers. The first Act is where the story of unrequited love unfolds, and the second Act is where love is requited and a 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.

As Titania, Ms. Reichlen, as always, was sublime, first filled with self-protection, later succumbing to emotion. As Oberon, Mr. Ulbricht, in this casting, seemed out of place, as physically and dramatically he and Ms. Reichlen are opposites (This was not another Balanchine ballet, The Prodigal Son, where this differentiated duo is outstanding). I chose this cast just to see Mr. Ulbricht’s debut as Oberon, but he does make a better Puck. As Oberon, he’d be well cast with Sterling Hyltin, Brittany Pollack, Lauren Lovette, or Erica Pereira. Tonight, he remained impetuous and persistent, with his signature elevation and speed, but his spark was repressed. Both Mr. Ulbricht and Ms. Reichlen danced with expressive gestures. Troy Schumacher, as Puck, was perfectly cast, transporting us into his fantasy world. He avoided the campy clichés, instead opting for spritely sensitivity and mischief-making. 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. Puck makes much of that rose and needs to be persuasive, as was Mr. Schumacher.

Today’s cast did make much of those roses, and Helena (Brittany Pollack), Demetrius (Zachary Catazaro), Hermia (Ashley Laracey), and Lysander (Russell Janzen), all fell in and out of love with each other, with silent-film-worthy racing about, chasing whomever they awoke and re-awoke to fall in love with. Of course, as this comedy proceeds, all is well at the conclusion, and couples are paired off as they should be. Those campy scenes were priceless. Ashly Laracey, Zachary Catazaro, and Brittany Pollack were impassioned and persuasive. At one point, Mr. Catazaro, beseeching Hermia, grabbed Ms. Laracey’s skirt in his teeth, while he was slithering in yearning on the stage. The audience roared with laughter. Mr. Catazaro succeeds both in abstract and theatrical roles with aplomb. Ms. Laracey, as well, expanded the hilarity with her mimed hysteria. Ms. Pollack was vaudevillian yet balletic. Georgina Pazcoguin, as well, a forceful Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, was striking in the mythological motif, and grandly charismatic, especially in her brisk fouettés. Andrew Scordato, as Theseus, Duke of Athens, was notable in the role, and Claire von Enck, as Butterfly, was omnipresent, lyrical, and ethereal, in this dreamlike ballet about a dream.

Justin Peck, as Titania’s Cavalier, was more macho in his demeanor than most Cavaliers, here, and I was wishing he’d been Oberon, for once. Harrison Coll was a childlike Bottom (the drunken Rustic, who becomes a donkey for a while), with an ingénue and vulnerable persona. In the Act II Divertissement, Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar added scintillating dimension and depth to the festivities. Ms. Hyltin danced with extra personality, fluidity, and outsized expansiveness.. She and Mr. Ramasar were onstage to do exactly what the Divertissement was intended to do, and that’s to entertain. Mr. Ramasar showcased Ms. Hyltin in gorgeous lifts. The children of SAB were adorable butterflies and fairies, running and scampering by the dozen, and the Corps kept the action busy, in the dimness of Act I and the glow of Act II.

The Act II Wedding scene, in the Court of Theseus in Athens, was very Balanchine-esque, with ensembles in dance designs that branched into moving patterns and figures that persistently engaged the eye. The singers of Musica Sacra kept the Mendelssohn score textured and full, and Maestro Capps brought out the most in City Ballet Orchestra’s strings and horns. 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 the shifting lighting, and he mastered it with expertise. Kudos to George Balanchine and City Ballet for this sublime evening.

Kudos to Peter Martins and New York City Ballet for a splendid Spring 2015 Season.

Troy Schumacher and the Company
in Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at