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Program IV: A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Their new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream debuts this Friday.

http://www.miamicityballet.org/performances/midsummer-nights-dream

I am super excited to see the new costumes, ocean-inspired. I have also never seen this ballet before, so that in itself is thrilling to me.

Jovani Furlan posted a photo of one of the new tutus on Instagram (tutu for Helena).

Screen_Shot_2016_03_16_at_12_27_42_PM.pn

Casting is up for the Miami performances: http://www.miamicityballet.org/press/casting-announcement-midsummer-nights-dream-adrienne-arsht-center-performing-arts-miami

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I hope someone posts a review of this, especially one of Simone Messmer as Titania.

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I will be at the Friday night premiere with Simone as Titania! My review might not be very technical, but I can definitely report back and give my opinion :)

I'm thinking of attending on Sunday afternoon as well because it will be the last performance in Miami from Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra.

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I will be at the Friday night premiere with Simone as Titania! My review might not be very technical, but I can definitely report back and give my opinion :)

I'm thinking of attending on Sunday afternoon as well because it will be the last performance in Miami from Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra.

Me too. I may even try and make the hour’s drive for the other two if I can get tickets.

Ah, dear Ballet Alert! I’ve been searching for casting for weeks. Couldn’t find it at the MCB site, but here it is. Thank you!

It’s been several years since I’ve seen the company. I bought my ticket months ago hoping that Simone Messmer would get a lead. She could be great as Titania, really great! The Divertissement duet is one of my favorites in all ballet. I would really like to see her in this as well. I’ve never seen her do something very delicate and would love to.

I also would like very much to see Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg. Edward (Villella) in one of his pre-performance talks said that she, as much as anyone, was his ideal for the company. I’ve seen her do some profound performing and wish that I would have had the chance to see more of her. Tricia Albertson and Renan Cerdeiro are two others that I look forward to seeing.

Another primary reason for going, I went to college with Michele Oka Doner. I have to hope that her sets and costumes are a smash success!

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Costumes look great, hope MCB hits a home run with this production. Honestly for a totally Balanchine Baby company, I'm shocked they haven't put on MSND before this year! Let's hope they put on Coppelia soon!

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They have put on Coppelia before, but I think it was not the official Balanchine version although it had elements of it.

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I will also be there on Friday. Would be great to meet any of you who also plan to attend. I will be in orchestra,and usually hang by the bar during intermezzos.

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I will also be there on Friday. Would be great to meet any of you who also plan to attend. I will be in orchestra,and usually hang by the bar during intermezzos.

I'll try to be there if I don't get tied up with some of my old friends. Cheers!

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Do you guys have any parking tips/recommendations? I just realized Ultra is also this weekend a few blocks down from the theater... I'm scared that parking is going to end up costing one arm and a kidney.

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Trafficl will be HORRENDOUS. I will devote a whole hour to get out of South Beach and reach downtown. Tonight I might have to deviate a bit into the rough area west of the opera house. In a similar night, some years ago, my mom's car got stolen, so it is a real risk...

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I just came from the Arsht. For those who know the very malignant traffic situation in this city, I took the precaution of start driving across the causeway an hour and a half in advance. ULTRA is in full blown now and I knew it would cost me wonders to get downtown.

But down to important matters. The house was packed, as I've never seen it before in a ballet. Lourdes went onstage to thank the sponsors and donors, and Villella-(she has always done it, which I believe to be a very nice note from her). She then proceeded to explain the changes in settings, from the Elizabethian/Shakesperean forest to the underwater one she envisioned for this production. And then the ballet started.

I refrained myself to try and look for videos of the original production. I have never seen the ballet, and I wanted a fresh, first approach to it. So here are some of my thoughts:

First, I don't think the translation of setting worked. The story of the two pairs of lovers was unclear here. If the story is taking place underwater, how is that this humans-(Hermia/Lysander and Helena/Demetrius)-are even down there..? Via choreographic clues I could tell that Puck-(Shimon Ito)- was mischievously interacting with the two couples without even being seen, as one might expect from magical creatures of an enchanted forest, but by placing everyone underwater the plot doesn't really makes much sense, at least to me. Hyppolyta-(Jordan E.Long)- is seen grand jetteing across the stage hunting...and hunting underwater, which was also not too credible. Her companions were seahorses. The butterflies are kept as butterflies-(underwater!)-so go figure...

I also had a problem with a transparent screen that was placed during the entire act I in front of the dancers-(much like the one used in the opening of B's Nutcracker)-that gave a certain effect of changing patterns, but I was just wishing that it would be lifted at one point, which never did. The entire act was danced behind such screen, which was weird.

The costumes were very luxurious, particularly the tutus of act II.

The dancing had some nice moments, particularly during some segments of Titania's adagio with her cavalier-(Simone Messmer/Reyneris Reyes). Kleber Rebello's Oberon had some brilliant footwork moments. I loved him in this role, as well as Ito's Puck. They were the highlights of the ballet, with Messmer's Titania in second place.

I would be lying if I say I didn't felt a bit bored. It was nice to see such a super production, and I have now another Balanchine's ballet down in my "Seen" list, but I don't think I would be going again to see it. Maybe I would, but in NYCB with its original setting..to form a complete comparison to what I saw today.

I predict that this ballet won't be repeated too often, which makes me think...if they were able to spend so much money in a story ballet that is far from being a money maker-(the numbers are around)-I don't think that has been the issue for the company's absence of a winning ticket for the times to come as it is a potential, complete Swan Lake.

Nice to see fellow BT'r Buddy at the house tonight..!!

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I totally agree with you on the mesh screen. The effects it gave us were really nice, but I really felt like we couldn't really connect with the dancers because there was (literally) something between us and them. Maybe that was part of the idea... to make us feel like we are peeking into a different world, and that we are not part of it? I too thought it would come up at some point (like they do in the Nutcracker), but I was really bummed when I realized it wouldn't during Act I. When that was lifted for Act II I enjoyed the show a lot more right away as I could see each dancer and their faces a lot better.

My big issue with this was it didn't fully commit 100% to the underwater theme. Puck's and the butterflies' costumes are still all very forest-y, so I thought it just didn't mesh well. Either you have everybody into an ocean theme or at least costumes, or you don't. It bugged me that they almost half-assed it. They made the effort of changing the hounds into seahorses, or Bottom into a manatee (which I thought was hilarious and a nice little local twist), but then you don't change the butterflies? Or Puck's costume?

I thought the ocean costumes were really lovely, and I loved the headpieces inspired by corals and sponges. It really felt like we were underwater at times, and I wasn't too bothered that humans are frolicking down there (the two lovers). It was just magical and trumped logic, which I was fine with. I imagined they were mermaids and mer...men?But again, I wish everything had been committed to the ocean especially in the costumes. That said, I thought it felt very magical and otherwordly, so that was nice. I have never seen the original production of Midsummer so I can't really compare.

Rebello and Messmer were both fantastic, and I was really impressed by Rebello's footwork. Ito was great in the role of Puck, and I thought Long was fantastic as Hyppolita. She has such a presence and almost dominant vibe about her when she's on stage. Her "port de tete" and carriage are incredible. I love watching her dance, and hope to see her in more dramatic roles in the future.

While I enjoyed it overall, and similarly to cubanmiamiboy, I don't know if I'll see it again. If I do, I also want to see the original production just as a point of comparison. It felt really magical and I appreciated the new costumes and tutus, but I wasn't blown away or really felt anything like I did with the Sufjan ballet or even Bourree, both of which I wanted to see again 5 minutes after the show ended.

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Forgive me. I am a NYC resident and sometimes don't follow other companies as well as I should. Did Miami City Ballet put the Balanchine production under water or am I misunderstanding? This ballet, as far as narrative ballets go, is just about perfect. I have seen NYCB do it at least a dozen times over the years. Why would anyone mess with it? Sorry if I am asking stupid questions.

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I'm not there but I'm told it's controversial but very beautiful. Interested to hear the replies on why anyone would mess with it.

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I hate scrims--they almost completely spoil my pleasure when I see a ballet or contemporary dance work that uses them. I think I would have been ready to scream at a performance of Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream in which the scrim didn't go up until the second act -- whatever the scenic effects achieved. Uh...otherwise many aspects of the production sound rather delightful. I'm okay in principle with Miami City ballet having a distinctive version of Balanchine's work as long as NYCB doesn't mess with theirs...

Also edited to add: there are several butterfly-ish looking creatures under the sea...

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...

It was nice to see such a super production, and I have now another Balanchine's ballet down in my "Seen" list, but I don't think I would be going again to see it. Maybe I would, but in NYCB with its original setting..to form a complete comparison to what I saw today.

...

The comments here from those who have seen NYCB's production recently are encouraging, but you might want to approach NYCB's current production of Midsummer with caution, rather than assume it's a carefully-maintained reproduction of the original. I haven't seen it, or even read about it, in many many years, but I've seen a few of their other productions. For example:

It's been many, may years since their production of Balanchine's half-hour distillation of Swan Lake was revised with black costumes for all the swans but Odette, the lighting became more dusky and obscure, and the number of the swans was increased, so that, clotting the stage in their dark costumes, their patterns - much of the point of that version - became obscure.

(Villella's recent revival of that "concentrated" SL was notable for reinstating the original numbers and colors of the swans, not to mention their superb dancing. This was just one of innumerable instances where Villella's company gave this old Balanchine addict - one who had happily immersed himself in hundreds of performances supervised by Balanchine - more satisfaction than Peter Martins's company does.)

And not so many years ago, NYCB showed a version of Scotch Symphony with subdued dancing made to look even smaller by a huge nearly-blank backdrop in desert pastels, attributed to Karin von Aroldingen, no less, instead of the original Horace Armistead drop, which had evoked the shadowy forests of the Scottish Highlands and gave proper prominence to the dancers, who wore, for the most part, costumes derived from dark tartans.

So if you want to check NYCB's production today, do your research, although these reports do look encouraging.

But to those comments, yeah, why would anybody want to mess with it? Or with the others in my examples? It's hard to account for the actions and judgements of others. "Artistic differences," etc.

Although we can allow for the doleful influence of the marketers: If somebody changes it, they can say, "It's New! NEW!" And companies stage Balanchine's musically wonderful The Nutcracker with New! sets and costumes from time to time.

Me, like vipa, I can live very happily with "just about perfect"! And like Drew, I don't like scrims that interfere, although the one at the beginning of Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which lets us see the party preparations the kids are spying on through the keyhole, was a master stroke. For me, it contributes. (And then it gets out of the way, IIRC.)

Edited by Jack Reed

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Forgive me. I am a NYC resident and sometimes don't follow other companies as well as I should. Did Miami City Ballet put the Balanchine production under water or am I misunderstanding? This ballet, as far as narrative ballets go, is just about perfect. I have seen NYCB do it at least a dozen times over the years. Why would anyone mess with it? Sorry if I am asking stupid questions.

I don't really remember much of Lopez' speech before the performance started, but it was basically her vision of 5 years. They revisited it with the inspiration of using Miami's underwater world, so the entire first act basically was as if they were in the ocean full of magical creatures instead of an enchanted forest. It felt like the Little Mermaid, but obviously a lot better. It felt a bit more relatable I guess to us south Floridians to have it feature corals and seahorses and other sea-creatures.

This is Lourdes Lopez discussing her vision for this new production of Midsummer.

I don't mind so much the "messing with it" part. I think art needs to be constantly evolving and changing and improving, even though you can keep the beautiful basics of Balanchine, Shakespeare and Mendelssohn. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but art is fluid and always moving. I love the underwater idea, and for the most part I thought was done fairly well, minus the few things I mentioned in my previous post.

Anyways, this Miami Herald article reviews last night's performance and describes the setting a bit better.

Doner sets shifting images (Wendall Harrington is credited with projection design) on the back wall and a transparent scrim in the front of the stage, layering enormous, ethereal sea plants and creatures, which change with each scene and even undulate slightly, creating a shifting, cinematic atmosphere. John Hall’s shadowy lighting adds to the surreal mood. The intricate costumes combine silvery, shimmery unitards, feathery seaweed skirts, swooping coral headdresses; they make the dancers seem like darting fish in the dark depths.
So yes, the scrim worked well because it did feel like we were underwater and it felt very surreal and soft, but I wish they had lifted it at some point.

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I would be lying if I say I didn't felt a bit bored. It was nice to see such a super production, and I have now another Balanchine's ballet down in my "Seen" list, but I don't think I would be going again to see it. Maybe I would, but in NYCB with its original setting..to form a complete comparison to what I saw today.

Two cents from the dramatic/ABT/non-pure-dance side of the house here:

I also remember finding Balanchine's MND completely bland when I first saw it at NYCB: partly because I had expected a blow-by-blow narrative and partly because the acting was rather weak. When I saw it a second time (with a few stage animals in the cast), it registered differently: like one of those stage-tastic films from the 50s and 60s with a lot of cross-cutting and flashbacks between modern-day stage players and the historical reality (or myth) which they were acting out.

It really helped to have performers in MND Act I who would suddenly emerge from the mist, unseeing of the other characters, fully immersed in their own drama. It heightened one's sense that the characters lived in different worlds...and that one of those worlds wasn't meant to seem real. (And it seemed that the "fairies" were more real than the lovers.)

I wonder if the scrim flattened that sense of independent worlds.

(Act 2 is its own animal, and I've only seen it totally work once. It requires simpatico partners with technique, musicality, AND stagecraft...those are thin on the ground everywhere.)

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They have put on Coppelia before, but I think it was not the official Balanchine version although it had elements of it.

For what it's worth, "the Balanchine version" was supposed to be mainly an older version in its first two acts, mostly staged from her own BRdMC performance memory by Alexandra Danilova, with a mostly-new Third Act by Balanchine, to replace the lost Russian and discarded French third acts; I don't remember what MCB did in their production, but if it derived differently from tradition it may well have had a lot in common with NYCB's but still not have any Balanchine in it.

While I'm recollecting, I might mention that NYCB's Coppelia was telecast in 1978 by PBS in their "Live from Lincoln Center" series, so you may be able to find a video of it to see. The cast was wonderfully led by Patricia McBride and Helgi Tomasson, and as a point of interest, while we're talking about MCB, that cast included Lourdes Lopez as one of the four "Jesterettes," the fifth of the seven Act Three divertissements. (The last of these was a beautiful pas de deux for McBride and Tomasson to music Balanchine took from Delibes' Sylvia for the purpose.)

But this is a little OT. More to the point would be the NYCB Midsummer telecast May 24, 1986, in the PBS Great Performances - Live from Lincoln Center series, with Maria Calegari as Titania, Ib Andersen as Oberon, and Jean-Pierre Frohlich as Puck, and directed by Kirk Browning. That would be something to see if and when you can, although in south Florida, you're a long way from New York and its fabulous archives.

Edited by Jack Reed

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….

I also remember finding Balanchine's MND completely bland when I first saw it at NYCB: partly because I had expected a blow-by-blow narrative and partly because the acting was rather weak. When I saw it a second time (with a few stage animals in the cast), it registered differently: like one of those stage-tastic films from the 50s and 60s with a lot of cross-cutting and flashbacks between modern-day stage players and the historical reality (or myth) which they were acting out.

It really helped to have performers in MND Act I who would suddenly emerge from the mist, unseeing of the other characters, fully immersed in their own drama. It heightened one's sense that the characters lived in different worlds...and that one of those worlds wasn't meant to seem real. (And it seemed that the "fairies" were more real than the lovers.)

I wonder if the scrim flattened that sense of independent worlds.

...

Just curious when you saw those NYCB performances, choriamb. Since the mid-80's, NYCB's Balanchine has often seemed bland to me, and so, I haven't seen much of it.

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I saw all the performances and drove up and down the State of Florida each day to do so. This is my first chance to get on the internet. I’ve not had time to see any other posts, but here are some quick comments and impressions.

First of all, it was a pleasure to meet Cristian (“cubanmiamiboy”), a very nice person, and briefly his mother, a very attractive lady.

The heart touching highlight was after the final curtain and Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and her husband, Carlos Miguel Guerra’s, final performance. Members of the audience starting throwing flowers and applauding. Then what seemed to be all the members of the cast came on stage in a single line, all carrying flowers.

The loveliest performance, for me, was probably the final night’s Divertissement duet with Jennifer Lauren and Renan Cerdeiro. She was absolutely lovely and he was at his poetic best.

Simone Messmer is simply a phenomenon and a star. She performed the first two nights and was subtly brilliant and captivating. She will probably be the new standard for the company which is slightly changing in look and feel. This should be just fine, but I also continue to hope that the best of Edward (Villella) and the presence of those who shined with him will be preserved as much as possible.

Shimon Ito, Puck, was outstanding. Kleber Rebello, Oberon, was also excellent doing entrechats after entrechats. I remember when he and Renan Cerdeiro started with the company. Kleber Rebello was very impressively bravura and Renan Cerdeiro was highly poetic, which I especially enjoyed. Both were quickly made Principals and both now seem better than ever.

I thought that Michele Oka Doner’s new underwater sets and costumes were extremely beautiful. They worked very well.

I thought that the entire production was lovely. I wish it and the company much success.

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Alistair Macaulay's New York Times review includes one image, apparently from a performance, with no scrim that I can see. Does it not accurately show the production as you all saw it in the theater? It wouldn't be the first time a ballet company made some adjustment for a publicity picture, I'll bet, or even encouraged some dress-rehearsal photo-taking. Just for the record, not to mention our tradition of accuracy, what do you think is going on here?

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I was happy that Simone Messmer got such a positive review. I'm glad she is thriving there. Another instance of ABT ignoring the talent within its own ranks.

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