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1966 Midsummer Night's Dream film; Farrell, Villella, Mitchell, et

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(from New York, NY) Before Tuesday night's showing of the 1966 Midsummer Night's Dream film, Robert Greskovic remarked in the course of his introduction that he had just learned that "Titania" means "daughter of Titan", and after it Suzanne Farrell spoke and took some questions:

It turned out the film had been made out of sequence in a small studio on 54th Street where a scene would be filmed when the scenery had been constructed. There wasn't much opportunity to shoot over, because the scenery would have been changed to construct another part of the forest. There were no dailies, and the dancers were fascinated and surprised when they finally saw the finished result. Balanchine put the fountain in the Second Act, never seen on stage, as "a little gift to himself" because he remembered fondly the onstage fountain at the Kirov in his youth. There's "At the Fountain" choreography, too, never seen on stage.

Though there were some small differences in pantomime from the stage version, other differences are obvious, like the appearances from nowhere. [Puck (Arthur Mitchell), Oberon (Edward Villella), and some fairies appear from nowhere sometimes, sometimes suddenly, sometimes more gently, and the ass's head appears and disappears magically on Bottom's head on a gesture from Puck. These were among the moments some in the audience laughed, the others being such broad "Elizabethan" details, as I thought of them, as Bottom, as the ass, scratching his leg and so on.]

Farrell said with some emphasis, "I want to thank the whole cast for its united individuality up there." [i.e. on the screen.] [At the reception following, I met a young woman who had been a page, holding Karin von Aroldingen's train in the film.]

There was a question about whether the film was shot "in real time" or was it speeded up? Farrell answered that it was all in real time, although whether the dancing was on the music depended on whether it was a wide shot or a closeup; she'd had a similar problem with her Don Quixote film. The music was recorded in advance and there was no way in those days to change the tempo [i.e. without changing the pitch]. Someone in the audience thought the music was "half a step" high, and someone from the Cinematheque Francaise said there was a problem transferring from 24 frames-per-second film to 25 fps video; this raised the pitch and the tempo by that amount. [it sounded maybe a little high-pitched but not fast-driven in tempo to me.]

The ballet was choreographed in a couple of weeks, so there was no time for the dancers to read much, although never a day passed that Balanchine wouldn't quote

The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath

not seen, man's hand is not able to taste,... what my dream was...

Farrell wasn't good at the donkey pas de deux, and he asked her whether she had an animal at home she talked to. She didn't, so she got a kitten, named it Bottom, and developed her role that way. Many characters in the play were eliminated. They got the timing of the lovers' part "just right."

The C.F. man agreed that it would be "wonderful" if this film were generally released, but it needed [technical] working on, no negative existed, and rights would have to obtained from everyone connected with making it or their heirs or estates. Farrell retold the story she had heard that the producer, Richard Davis, lost the rights to it in a poker game.

Asked what the extent of Balanchine's involvement in the filming was, Farrell said he was right behind the cameraman. There were two cameras going, thus there are color changes. There was no editing or splicing. Except in parts of the Second Act, there was a third, high [crane] camera [which showed some swirling patterns on a kind of plaza in front of the fountain, probably tiles painted on the studio floor].

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Thank you Jack. It's fascinating to read about the filming. It's funny that there's still so much confusion regarding releasing the film to the public since it was available commercially in Europe in the 1980s and was broadcast on television in Canada (Bravo) in the 90s.

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