Program overview from the press release:
SEATTLE, WA– Pacific Northwest Ballet continues its 2013-2014 season with George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A complete delight for all ages, this full-length ballet is based on William Shakespeare's comedy about the romantic adventures, quarrels and reunions of two pairs of mortal lovers and the king and queen of the fairies. Balanchine’s Midsummer, which New York City Ballet premiered in 1962, was the first original evening-length ballet he choreographed in America. Staged by PNB Founding Artistic Director Francia Russell, PNB's production is an enchanted landscape where misunderstandings and mayhem weave tangled paths through the opulent layers of Martin Pakledinaz's designs and Balanchine's marvelously crafted partnerings. All ends well in Act II's wedding festivities with the recognition of ideal love, tenderly portrayed in an exquisite pas de deux. A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays for eight performances only, April 11-19 at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center Tickets start at $28 and may be purchased by calling the PNB Box Office at 206. 441.2424, online at PNB.org, or in person at the PNB Box Office at 301 Mercer Street.
“As a child, I remember sitting in the New York City Ballet’s audience as George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream cast its spell,” said Artistic Director Peter Boal. “PNB’s production, staged with care and texture by Francia Russell, is unique. Other productions use Balanchine’s choreography and the enchanting score by Felix Mendelssohn, but only PNB’s production boasts the whimsy and spectacle of set and costume designs by Martin Pakledinaz. A fantastic frog and looming spider balance bulbous mushrooms and august roses. The senses are satiated with scale and color. PNB’s signature production with its winning combination of Francia’s staging, Marty’s designs and our amazing dancers – not to mention Balanchine, Mendelssohn, and William Shakespeare – promises to once again enchant audiences of all ages.”
PNB’s newly-designed production premiered in 1997 and toured to great acclaim at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1998. [/color]In 1999, PNB toured Midsummer to England, where the production was performed and filmed by the BBC in high-definition before a live audience at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre. The DVD is available through PNB’s gift shop at McCaw Hall and online at PNB.org/GiftShop
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM[/size]
Music: Felix Mendelssohn*
Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Staging: Francia Russell
Scenic and Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli
Premiere: January 17, 1962; New York City Ballet
PNB Premiere: May 16, 1985; PNB’s new production: May 27, 1997
Balanchine’s fondness for Shakespeare's tale of love's delusions and mishaps dated from boyhood when he had performed as an elf in a St. Petersburg production of the play. As an adult he still remembered many lines (in Russian) and loved to quote them, especially those enchanting ones of Oberon that begin, "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, /Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows ..." But Balanchine's desire to bring this favorite theater piece to the ballet stage waited more than 20 years for fulfillment while he searched for music with which to expand Mendelssohn's original score to suitable length.
Although Balanchine is famous for his rejection of the evening-long story ballet tradition that dominated the 19th century, he was not, in fact, opposed to story ballets per se, only to their excesses. In Midsummer, which dance writer Anita Finkel has called "possibly the greatest narrative ballet of all time," he demonstrated brilliantly that the pace of a story ballet can be fleet rather than ponderous, that mime can be delicate and to the point, and that the tale can be told almost entirely through dance.
Perhaps most inspired is Balanchine's sustained employment of ballet's central metaphor of love—the pas de deux—to embody the play's subtle insights into the many permutations of the love relationship. The cloying embraces of Hermia and Lysander, the distraught pleadings of Helena with Demetrius, the thrashing resistance of Hermia to Demetrius and of Helena to Lysander—all are distortions of the ideal partnership between lovers, traditionally conveyed by the ballerina and her cavalier. This human game of power is also played out in the fairy realm where, tellingly, the disputing spouses Titania and Oberon never dance together but instead perform self-celebratory solos for their admiring retinues. When Titania does condescend to take a partner, it is either the non-descript cavalier, who functions more as prop than peer, or, in the work's most charming episode, an artless ass. Only in Act II, which is pure dance, do the battles and imbalances, the self-indulgences and self-deceptions give way to a genuine dance partnership. In the magnificent Divertissement pas de deux which crowns the wedding festivities, competition has no place, and restraint, mutuality and trust define the mature ideal of love.
A Midsummer Night's Dream has been in Pacific Northwest Ballet's repertory since 1985. In 1997, with the approval of The George Balanchine Trust, PNB commissioned set and costume designer Martin Pakledinaz to re-design the entire production—a "first" for a Balanchine story ballet. Staged by PNB Founding Artistic Director Francia Russell, with every step, movement and gesture as Balanchine intended, this freshly-designed Midsummer brings the choreographer's dramatic ideas to life scenically as never before. [/size]
[Program Notes by Jeanie Thomas, 1997]