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Boston Ballet puts on a brilliant Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Performed by the Boston Ballet
Wang Center for the Performing Arts
Feb. 6-16

By Kai-Teh Tao
Staff Writer

Amid elaborate sets, brilliant dancing, and mystifying smoke, the Boston Ballet's A Midsummer Night's Dream opened at the Wang Center last Thursday to stunning success. Choreographed by Bruce Wells, the internationally renowned artistic director of the Pittsburgh Ballet, the production featured a cast of over 30 fairies, sprites, and elves, as well as chorus members Shaye Cohn and Nicholas Shapiro from the New England Conservatory Children's Chorus, who sang the solo roles from the Mendelssohn masterpiece.

The story, based upon the classic Shakespeare play, tells of two men, Lysander and Demetrius, competing for the affections of the same woman, Hermia. Hermia has been betrothed to Demetrius, but loves Lysander. To escape the anger of her father, Hermia and Lysander flee to an enchanted forest outside of the city. Meanwhile, Demetrius hears of their escape from Helena, a woman who loves him. Together, they follow the lovers to the woods, where most of the ballet takes place. A group of amateur actors, led by a boorish weaver, Bottom, joins the crew in the forest to rehearse a play Bottom wrote.

This mortal world is complicated by quarrels between Oberon, King of the Fairies, and his Queen Titania. Oberon orders his mischievous servant, Puck, to make Titania fall in love with the first person she sees, knowing full well that there are mortals in the forest. Puck, through a case of mistaken identity, causes Lysander to fall in love with Helena. He attempts to remedy the situation by charming Demetrius into loving Helena, leaving Hermia an abandoned and scorned woman. At the same time, Puck transforms Bottom's head into a donkey and places him next to the sleeping Titania, who awakens and instantly adores the donkey-headed Bottom. As in Shakespeare's comedies, the ballet ends happily, with Oberon and Puck undoing all their mischievous damage by setting things right.

The quality of the Boston Ballet's dancers shows why the company is steadily gaining fame as one of the premier dancing troupes in the country. Daniel Meja successfully steals the show with his role as the devilish Puck. Performing a whole range of leaps, splits, and falls, Meja at times makes one cringe in pain, amazed at the limits of human flexibility. Carla Stalling and Devon Carney demonstrate a strong partnership as the feuding Oberon and Titania, dividing the fairies into two factions, each with their own entourage. Their reconciliation at the end of the ballet coincides with the happy resolution to the story. Susanna Vennerbeck dances delightfully, teasing the audience constantly as the chased Hermia who gets a dish of her own medicine as she is spurned by both suitors. The skilled supporting cast of fairies and pixies, featuring students from the Boston Ballet School, promises the development of many future stars.

A Midsummer Night's Dream was complemented by a performance of the "Allegro Brillante," choreographed by Balanchine and set to the music of Tchaikovsky's unfinished third piano concerto. Trinidad Sevillano and Patrick Armand demonstrated wondrous chemistry during their performance of several difficult spins and steps. The timing was so perfectly set that the supporting cast of ballet dancers blended perfectly with the music, appearing as moving petals of a flower, anchored by the principal dancers. With the final curtain falling, the standing ovation and cheers from the audience brought a fitting conclusion to an enchanting evening.