A Midsummer Night's Dream
Citi Wang Theatre
Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007
George Balanchine's ballet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, conveys Shakespeare's tale of love and magic through a compelling interaction of vibrant visuals, exquisite choreography, and Mendelssohn's stirring score. The ballet debuted in New York City in 1962 and has finally found its way to Boston for the first time.
This interpretation of the play devotes the entire first act of the ballet to rigorously following every detail of Shakespeare's original version. Following the intermission, the second act contains minimal plot development, focusing on the joy of each couple involved in the triple wedding that concludes the tale. Balanchine gives each couple a lengthy solo during which the personal connections among lovers truly shine through the structured movements of dance. These solos are set to the backdrop of a grandiose, royal procession that left little room for uninhibited passion and more sensual motions.
At the start of the story, Lysander (Pavel Gurevich) and Hermia (Tai Jimenez) are deeply in love. However, Theseus (Bo Busby), the Duke of Athens, announces that he will marry Hippolyta (Lia Cirio), the queen of the Amazons, and that his daughter, Hermia, must marry Demetrius (Yuri Yanowsky). To escape this fate, Hermia flees with Lysander into the forest. Helena (Kathleen Breen Combes), who loves Demetrius, informs him of the situation, resulting in Demetrius and Helena following suit. In the opening scenes of Act I where these characters were introduced, I was particularly impressed by the graceful movements of Hermia, who danced with strength and fluidity. Lysander and Demetrius were very solid in lifts and jumps, but at times their bodies appeared stiff while gesturing.
Throughout Shakespeare's original play, as well as in this ballet, Puck is the most entertaining character to watch. In this performance, his movements were exaggerated with motions that were more active than graceful. He used unexpected gestures to convey a sense of humor, which brought forth much laughter from the audience. While Puck stands out, the other characters also show their comedic sides; especially noteworthy was a funny scene that involved a confused Hermia, a love-struck Lysander, and a frightened Helena chasing each other in circles.
In addition to using Mendelssohn's overture and incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, Balanchine supplemented the score with other pieces by Mendelssohn. The pit orchestra, led by Jonathan McPhee, followed the dancers precisely and created each scene's mood skillfully.
Overall, the complicated plot was artfully expressed, and easy to follow due to some clever costuming (one couple in red, another in blue). The sets were beautifully crafted, successfully portraying the spookiness of the forest at night (with a little help from some dry ice) as well as the grandiose atmosphere at the wedding. Balanchine successfully intertwined the setting with the action to produce a more realistic performance. I would recommend the show to those looking to enjoy an elegant, light-hearted evening of comedy and romance.