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Program IV: A Midsummer Night's Dream

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I've seen hundreds of dance performances that use scrims as I have a relative who worked many years for a company famous for its use of scrims. I think that how much the scrim enhances or obscures the dancing really depends on the lighting. There are times when I've hated the scrim, and other times when I've found it sets a mood. There are times when I've been able to see faces quite well behind the scrim and times when I haven't. Different shows, different lighting.

Indeed -- scrims are an old-school special effect that really depend on the lighting to make the image work!

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Some notes on last night's performance of Midsummer:

The scrim is still there-such an embedded part of the production...although I prefer scrims used sparingly this didn't bother me since I was up close in the 7th row. Tonight I will be farther away so it might bother me more...I don't think they plan to ever get rid of it since the projections match the backdrops and create a mood.

The program says it takes place in an estuary so I think the water world is more symbolic...underwater elements throughout but humans aren't necessarily in the water. I think the water motif is simply a symbol. However, I didn't feel the water element actually evoked South Florida. I am used to the beaches down here and didn't exactly feel the production captured my experience of South Florida beaches or waterways.

Simone Messmer was a much better Titania than she was an Odette earlier in the season, in my opinion. Here she seemed more natural to me. Her cavalier Reyneris Reyes and she almost missed the kneeling jump down up into his arms and falling into an arabesque...looked almost like he was going to drop her for a second. Otherwise this pivotal pas de deux (probably most people's favorite part of the ballet) was very beautifully danced.

Arja-great as the main butterfly had terrific grand jetes. I have always loved her energy.

Hippolyta's costume is gorgeous! Best costume of the production! Gold sparkly coral? Not sure. But beautiful. Jordan-Elizabeth Long has the type of ballet body most ballerinas long for (long arms, long legs, very thin)....not sure I would have chosen her as Hippolyta though. She was fine but didn't have the authority and power that I tend to think about in this role. A bad production element was that dry ice almost hid her fouttes.

I don't think Manatees eat grass, rather hyacinths...maybe I am wrong.....regardless it represents what is wrong with this production....it is very pretty and nice to look at. Nothing disrespectful in the production at all, but slight things pop up that make you have to suspend disbelief. In Act 2 the backdrop has Coral Castle (a Miami sight that South Floridians know), but it was built in modern times while the production seemed to still take place (judging by the humans' costumes) in Athenian times. So I think I give this production an A for effort (trying to create a South Florida Midsummer and do something new) but maybe a C for the final product due to being sort of half baked and not fully thought out. With that said I think the costumes are beautiful and overall production interesting.

MCB's dancers brought it to life and seemed to give their heart and soul. So I had a wonderful time. Last but not least: Kleber Rebello's Oberon was the stand out doing entrechats like there's no tomorrow!!!

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I don't think Manatees eat grass, rather hyacinths...maybe I am wrong.....regardless it represents what is wrong with this production....it is very pretty and nice to look at. Nothing disrespectful in the production at all, but slight things pop up that make you have to suspend disbelief. In Act 2 the backdrop has Coral Castle (a Miami sight that South Floridians know), but it was built in modern times while the production seemed to still take place (judging by the humans' costumes) in Athenian times. So I think I give this production an A for effort (trying to create a South Florida Midsummer and do something new) but maybe a C for the final product due to being sort of half baked and not fully thought out. With that said I think the costumes are beautiful and overall production interesting.

Yeap, manatees do eat seagrass :) So much that their favorite one is named after them "manatee grass" (Syringodium filiforme). You will find that grass all over the waters of Biscayne Bay and South Florida.

Sorry, this was my marine-scientist minute.

Great to read your thoughts though. On an somewhat related note, MCB has a Snapchat account that I recently followed, and last night's "story" was great, it was a lot of behind the scenes shots. If you have the app, I recommend you add them! It's great to get these little snippets we don't get to see much.

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Yeap, manatees do eat seagrass :) So much that their favorite one is named after them "manatee grass" (Syringodium filiforme). You will find that grass all over the waters of Biscayne Bay and South Florida.

Sorry, this was my marine-scientist minute.

Great to read your thoughts though. On an somewhat related note, MCB has a Snapchat account that I recently followed, and last night's "story" was great, it was a lot of behind the scenes shots. If you have the app, I recommend you add them! It's great to get these little snippets we don't get to see much.

Okay, thanks for the correction! I always thought they ate water hyacinths. Glad to know their diet is more varied. I was just talking with someone and remembered another moment where I felt the production didn't quite work. To me a donkey scratching his leg just seems more normal than a manatee doing this. Not sure why! Maybe because a manatee has more of a short flipper like "arm"....With that said I actually love the change from donkey to manatee. It is very cute, and the overall production is very beautiful, so I am not really bothered by it like others are, but I do think there are little details in it that don't quite work.

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Last night's cast was basically the same as Friday night except that Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado danced the Act 2 divertissement. On Friday night Tricia Albertson and Rainer Krenstetter danced it. Both teams handled this pas de deux well, but I think Delgado's turns were more exciting than Albertson's. It was nice to see Delgado for the first time this season. I think someone here on BA said she was out due to an injury. She is an audience favorite and she and Penteado brought down the house at curtain calls. I think they received louder applause than Messmer and Rebello as Titania and Oberon respectively.

Once again I loved Rebello's entrechats and stylish exits off stage. He and Messmer really made the most out of their first scene arguing over the child.

On a second viewing from up high I did not mind the first act scrim. To me it was almost invisible except when there were projections on it. Maybe MCB adjusted the lighting since Miami, so the scrim worked better. However, you really did notice its absence (and a much clearer view) in Act 2.

I find I like sitting higher up for Balanchine because the patterns of the corps are easier to enjoy. I used to sit high up for opera always because I love hearing well projected voices carry so far. You appreciate how large some opera singers' voices are when you sit high up. But for ballet I usually prefer to sit up close, but I am beginning to think I should sit far back when it is Balanchine.

Btw, no sour notes from the singers in Midsummer! They were nice. I sometimes dread the unknown singers used in ballets that require singing. The singers in this production sounded fine but they looked young (in the orchestra pit) so they have not ruined their voices yet! LOL

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I was also at last evenings performance. The production was magnificent on the Kravis Center stage. The lighting, projections, scenery and costumes were well done. I suppose I am accustomed to scrims. It did not bother me at all, but I was very close to center in the grand tier.

The company looked fantastic in the 1st Act but only passable in the 2nd Act. The 2 Acts just did not seem to go together. They seemed like 2 completely different ballets. For me, beautiful legs and feet are required in classical tutus. In this area, the 2nd Act was lacking.

I will attend next weekend in Broward as well.

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Otherwise this pivotal pas de deux (probably most people's favorite part of the ballet) was very beautifully danced.

I'd vote for the second act pas de deux if I had to choose...

Hippolyta ... was fine but didn't have the authority and power that I tend to think about in this role. A bad production element was that dry ice almost hid her fouttes.

This happens occasionally here in Seattle with the PNB productions (designs by Martin Pakledinaz) Dry ice smoke is remarkably unruly.

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For me the music during Titania's and her cavalier's duet is gentle and touching and later crescendos, so I guess that is why I like that pas de deux slightly better, although the one in Act 2 is also very lovely and the choreography is possibly a little better.

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I was also at last evenings performance. The production was magnificent on the Kravis Center stage. The lighting, projections, scenery and costumes were well done. I suppose I am accustomed to scrims. It did not bother me at all, but I was very close to center in the grand tier.

The company looked fantastic in the 1st Act but only passable in the 2nd Act. The 2 Acts just did not seem to go together. They seemed like 2 completely different ballets. For me, beautiful legs and feet are required in classical tutus. In this area, the 2nd Act was lacking.

I will attend next weekend in Broward as well.

There is a lot more diversity in the bodies than in some companies. There were a couple of surprising examples, but I don't want to go into that. The male in question used to be quite fit and handsome.

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I have been watching MCB since the 1980s. I know the dancers and their stories quite well.

My comment is a general comment regarding the expectation of bodies suitable for classical dance when the costuming requires a tutu.

In the 1st Act the varying body types were generally masked by the magnificent costumes. Wearing a classical tutu requires beautiful classical line. Just my opinion, but this was lacking for most in the 2nd Act. There was Messmer, in such glory, all covered up. Her body is excellent for classical dance and one could not see it. Instead we saw bent knees, ladies not quite arriving on pointe and a general lack of feminity which many might say is fabulous energy. Just not my cup of tea.

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... The 2 Acts just did not seem to go together. They seemed like 2 completely different ballets.

There is, in most of the classical repertory, a sense of disjunction in the final act -- what I used to call the "happy ending, happy ending" act. We've tidied all the plot away, and we can get down to the business of classical dancing. I don't know if that was Balanchine's intention here, but it certainly does read that way. I do love the way that the fairy world comes back at the end, so that we don't forget the enchantment of the previous act.

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I will attend next weekend in Broward as well.

I will also, Vicky. I will take my French friend with me, who's not a balletomanne but a highly opinionated connosseur of music, literature and opera. The first thing he told me when I told him about the killing of the original scenario was.."Why does people always seem to be so obsessed with their need to 'change' a work of art if it has been proved that said work is already a established, loved and successful one...?!?!" I told her about Lopez' "vision", to which he replied... "I'm going but.. what on hell does the ocean depth has to do with a midsummer's night !?!?..It is always dark, cold and damp down there..!!..THIS IS ABOUT AN ELIZABETHEAN FOREST..PERIOD!!"

OH well...

BTW, Birdsall...nothing wrong to point out at how out of shape Carlos Guerra has been looking for a while now. We've discussed until exhausting limits the look of certain ballerinas in relationship with their weight-(Whelan, Mezentseva and most recently Kathryn Morgan) . Guerra definitely stands out from the rest of the guys, and as I said...it has been for a while.

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"Elizabethan forest period...?" why not "an Athenian forest period?" or a bit of both for that matter. Balanchine riffs on both (as does Shakespeare) as well as riffing on nineteenth-century ballet conventions. So there is no "period" about it in both senses of the word period--historical period or period as a way to say 'that's the end of the matter.' God knows theatrical productions of Shakespeare's play have gone far more radically in the direction of transforming sets/costumes/contexts etc.

I'm not unsympathetic to your concerns as I happen also to like the forest convention and thinks it's true to Shakespeare and Balanchine's original conception etc. , but as design re-imaginings go this Miami City Ballet production sounds pretty respectful and pretty charming. Does it work? Some people think yes and others no and others in-between. But that could easily have been true of a production that simply reproduced NYCB's sets/costumes. Piety is no guarantee of theatrical life and sometimes stifles it.

Amusingly (to me) and on the more literal side, there actually are such creatures as "sea butterflies."

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One of the most successful productions of the play that I know of was in Seattle at the Bathouse Theater -- director Arne Zaslov set the whole thing in a 1950s high school gymnasium at a sock hop. I never did see the original, it sold out in a flash, and everyone I know who saw it thought it was wonderful.

It's possible to produce Shakespeare as it was at the Globe (except possibly for the bear baiting), but it's also possible to use the text as a jumping-off place.

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One of the most successful productions of the play that I know of was in Seattle at the Bathouse Theater -- director Arne Zaslov set the whole thing in a 1950s high school gymnasium at a sock hop. I never did see the original, it sold out in a flash, and everyone I know who saw it thought it was wonderful.

It's possible to produce Shakespeare as it was at the Globe (except possibly for the bear baiting), but it's also possible to use the text as a jumping-off place.

Yes, dramatic theater and opera have been changing the setting and time period for many, many years, and it started gradually in Europe and has spread out. I attended an exhibtion of sketches of Wagner's Ring Cycle when I went to the San Francisco Ring, and I was amazed how the productions did not go from traditional and suddenly change overnight to something outrageous. It all happened a lot more gradually than we like to believe. It has been going on since way before I was born....the breakaway from "tradition" (but it was not a clean break.....it has actually been a very gradual break). So this particular Midsummer is for me such a mild, mild change. After seeing it I do not view everything happening in the ocean, simply having an ocean motif throughout, so it worked better than I thought it would. Nothing offensive and nothing that is upsetting. I also understand people's concerns and usually I love a very traditional production of a work, but I have also seen some crazy opera productions that I have also enjoyed (and some I absolutely hated). The Copenhagen Ring cycle is WILD with capital letters, and I absolutely loved it. There are videos of it, so anyone can watch it. Example of the wildness: Instead of Alberich simply stealing the gold from the Rhine he rips the bloody heart from a young naked man who is painted gold and swimming in a pool who represents the gold. The Valkyries are getting drunk during "hojotoho" etc. The dragon is a fake machine contraption and controlled from an underground lab. But despite these crazy moments as I watched it something happened. Parts of the Ring that I thought I knew and took for granted were illuminated for me in a new way even though that concept is there in the text and the music.......and there were some incredibly touching moments that had failed to register with me in more traditional Rings. I fell in love with that Ring because of that. But I also love the old traditional Met Ring (the one before the current "plank machine" one). Some opera lovers call the old traditional Met Ring (starring Hildegrad Behrens in the videos) "a lazy Ring for people who don't want to think".....but I love that one too......I love traditional versions, but I have also loved crazy productions SOMETIMES. As long as the director seems to love the work of art and attempts to move us deeply I enjoy it. For me there is no absolutes. There are good crazy productions and bad crazy productions. There are good traditional productions and awlful traditional productions.

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"Elizabethan forest period...?" why not "an Athenian forest period?" or a bit of both for that matter. Balanchine riffs on both (as does Shakespeare) as well as riffing on nineteenth-century ballet conventions. So there is no "period" about it in both senses of the word period--historical period or period as a way to say 'that's the end of the matter.' God knows theatrical productions of Shakespeare's play have gone far more radically in the direction of transforming sets/costumes/contexts etc.

I'm not unsympathetic to your concerns as I happen also to like the forest convention and thinks it's true to Shakespeare and Balanchine's original conception etc. , but as design re-imaginings go this Miami City Ballet production sounds pretty respectful and pretty charming. Does it work? Some people think yes and others no and others in-between. But that could easily have been true of a production that simply reproduced NYCB's sets/costumes. Piety is no guarantee of theatrical life and sometimes stifles it.

Amusingly (to me) and on the more literal side, there actually are such creatures as "sea butterflies"

Edited: Deleted. To harsh. Working on a gentler version

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"Elizabethan forest period...?" why not "an Athenian forest period?" or a bit of both for that matter. Balanchine riffs on both (as does Shakespeare) as well as riffing on nineteenth-century ballet conventions. So there is no "period" about it in both senses of the word period--historical period or period as a way to say 'that's the end of the matter.' God knows theatrical productions of Shakespeare's play have gone far more radically in the direction of transforming sets/costumes/contexts etc.

I'm not unsympathetic to your concerns as I happen also to like the forest convention and thinks it's true to Shakespeare and Balanchine's original conception etc. , but as design re-imaginings go this Miami City Ballet production sounds pretty respectful and pretty charming. Does it work? Some people think yes and others no and others in-between. But that could easily have been true of a production that simply reproduced NYCB's sets/costumes. Piety is no guarantee of theatrical life and sometimes stifles it.

Amusingly (to me) and on the more literal side, there actually are such creatures as "sea butterflies."

Ok. An even clearer distillation of my point. There was no need to change Balanchine's ballet other than ego feeding purposes : "Oh, I reworked B's work". Why...?! His production is a GOOD one. It didn't need to be reworked. I have never heard any complaints from anybody here-(and many of you long time NYCB balletomannes)-, about it, just as there was no need for the Paris Opera Ballet to ditch Nureyev version of the Nutcracker to stage the sad spectacle that is Tcherniakov' production-(and I know I'm going maybe a little too far with the comparison, but it just popped in my mind). I'm sure Lourdes' "vision" would be of interest of many of you here who have seen and enjoyed countless performances of the original staging, but this wasn't my case. This was my first encounter with the ballet. I had read Villella's and Farrell's books, where they reminisce on the production and I was looking forward, ever since Eddie talked about staging it years ago, to enjoy it in its original conception. I know...I know that the ballet is pretty much there, with a mere change of setting...but for being the first exposure of us South Floridians to it, I feel we were somehow played into something that is not necessarily what Balanchine envisioned, crafted and offered.

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I think more than ego was involved in this production--well, no-one can be sure of another person's motives but it sounds like more than ego to me--but I can understand wanting to see the ballet, especially for the first time, with the sets and setting Balanchine supervised.

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The Valkyries are getting drunk during "hojotoho" etc.

I can absolutely imagine that!

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All good, and probably very "edgy" and "exciting" for Ring lovers-(who have probably seen countless of traditional "lazy" performances)-to now feel bored and ready to declare the drunken Walkiries the 8th marvel of the world. Nice. But how about the rest of the audience...? The outcasts of the opera intelligentsia..? They probably don't count, right.

Shakespeare didn't place Midsummer in the ocean. Balanchine didn't place Midsummer in the ocean. Lourdes Lopez did. We are seeing her vision. I wanted to see Balanchine's. That' s all.

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So should we never make any changes in original productions? Is there no room for alternate interpretation?

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This production was very good for South Florida. Most are not sophisticated balletomanes with expectations of anything but to hopefully enjoy what they see. Even with my sometimes professional teacher jaded eyes, it is clear that the South Florida audience loved this production. South Florida was thrilled to buy tickets and support MCB. MCB was able to sell 3 large venues within 60 miles of each other. Maybe even Naples, 90 miles from Miami. Sorry I did not follow it that closely. The point is, the South Florida audience is finally supporting ballet with enthusiasm and interest. While we may all have our personal likes and dislikes, the facts are this production works for South Florida. Ms Lopez is doing her job well.

Ballet has a rich history of making changes to many productions. That is why we have so and sos version in classical dance and also in Balanchine. The question sometimes becomes, why not make a new ballet based on the new scenario? It is an age old question. I am happy to support good ballet. While I may not always like some of the dancing, MCB is producing good theatrical dance with a varied Repertoire which helps to educate not only the audience but also the dancers. Would I have prefered to see a dancing donkey rather than a manatee head with legs and read a program that was able to identify dragonflies (as the costumes obviously demonstrated) instead of butterflies? Yes. But for South Florida the main event was that good ballet happened on the stage in terms of production and most of the dancing. In order for South Florida to continue supporting ballet, we do need more productions like this one.

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So should we never make any changes in original productions? Is there no room for alternate interpretation?

If we could ask Balanchine about this particular event, maybe there would be a surprise answer for many of us. Who knows. If the alternate performance looks like the POB's new Nutcracker-(a ridiculously shame of an spectacle)-, then definitely NO.

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This production was very good for South Florida.

This BALLET was a very good pick for South Florida. Lopez' staging is, conceptually speaking, inferior than Balanchine's.

South Florida was thrilled to buy tickets and support MCB. MCB was able to sell 3 large venues within 60 miles of each other. Maybe even Naples, 90 miles from Miami. Sorry I did not follow it that closely. The point is, the South Florida audience is finally supporting ballet with enthusiasm and interest. While we may all have our personal likes and dislikes, the facts are this production works for South Florida. Ms Lopez is doing her job well.

Yes, yes and yes. But changing the action to a less than clear underwater theme has nothing to do with all of the above. The ballet, placed in its correct forest scheme, would had been as opulent, visually wise and attractive, dancing wise, AND with the plus of being less confusing, libretto wise.

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My concern is that while the redesign may contribute to bringing in more audience, to the extent it is a less good production - as many here say - it may short-change them in the end. (Maybe this is also part of Cristian's concern.) Had Midsummer been given in something more like its original form, would fewer people have had a better experience? I can't make the calculation.

I'm not sure this represents such a turn-around either, noticing that the number of performances in Broward (Ft. Lauderdale) has lately been cut from four per weekend to two; rather, it may be that MCB is finding a new audience, if sales are rising overall - as I believe board member and sometime critic (though not of MCB, to avoid conflict of interest), Robert Gottlieb, has claimed. Some of us think we've seen this before, in New York in the '80s. Those of us who knew and loved the shows we'd seen had to endure withdrawal pains, and - here we go again? We'll see.

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