Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|A Midsummer Night's Dream |
Actors: Mendelssohn, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Kershaw, BBC Concert Orchestra, George Balanchine
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Balanchine's, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Edward A. Perez | Alta Loma, CA | 04/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A Midsummer Night's Dream, with music by Felix Mendelssohn, is George Balanchine's story-ballet masterpiece based on Shakespeare's play. The Pacific Northwest Ballet's full-length production was performed and videotaped before a live audience at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre in February 1999. Critics lavishly praised this outstanding presentation. PNB artistic directors Francia Russell and Kent Stowell have trained and coached their dancers to a very high level of artistic excellence. The corps de ballet exhibits technical prowess, evident in every dance sequence. The women in the corps de ballet do pas de bourree courus, pirouettes, and various poses all in perfect unison. The ensemble dancing is precise and seamless. What you will not see in this ballet are maneges of coupe-jete turns, grands pirouettes, or multiple tours en l'air. Balanchine does not have his ballerinas do excessive fouettes rond de jambe en tournant. He is reported to have said that two or three revolutions in succession were enough (after that, he notes, the audience starts counting). His choreography calls for dancers to perform subtle moves and changes in direction. His is a lyrical ballet, not one of brute force and athletic bravura. As you view this ballet, take note of the well-mannered, courteous audience. British audiences are not clap-happy. American audiences, by contrast, often interrupt the music with unnecessary, inappropriate, and annoying applause (or frenzied screaming and whistling). (I think many balletgoers confuse ballet with figure skating competitions.) This audience applauds only after the music has stopped, allowing us to experience the emotional impact of ballet by witnessing bodily movement with the accompaniment of music.
Principal ballerina, Patricia Barker as Titania, shows why ballet audiences and critics alike so highly regard her. The steps she executes and poses she takes are done with ease and grace. Her deep arabesques- and attitudes-penchees exude elegance. Paul Gibson (Oberon) glides across the stage, turns suavely, and does some very nice batterie, while Charles Newton (Titania's Cavalier) shows that he too can move with agility and finesse. Hippolyta (Ariana Lallone) does a variety of jetes and turns. Three very fine grands jetes pas de chat in a row punctuate a sequence of turns, steps, and postures. The crowd pleaser, however, is Seth Belliston (Puck). He is a very expressive mime. His movements all over the floor are dazzling: He runs; he jumps; he spins with esprit and verve. Act II, a divertissement, features Louise Nadeau and Olivier Wevers in a pas de deux so sensuous it's impossible not to be filled with joy having witnessed their passion provoking dancing. Ms. Nadeau displays perfect line and musicality. Mr. Wevers lifts her effortlessly. Notice how adept he is as a Cavalier as he lowers her on pointe to the floor with delicate, and seemingly effortless, control. His turns and leaps are clean and sharp. Lisa Apple, Julie Tobiason, Ross Yearsley, and Jeffrey Stanton (the two sets of lovers) and Kaori Nakamura (Butterfly) turn in solid performances. Timothy Lynch (Bottom) makes a fine "ass."
The BBC Concert Orchestra, under the direction of Stewart Kershaw, gives a polished and sonorous performance of the Overture and Incidental Music To A Midsummer Night's Dream (augmented with other delightful music of Mendelssohn). Three vocal accompaniments, liltingly sung by soprano Libby Crabtree, mezzo-soprano Judith Harris, and a small chorus include: 1) the "Fairies Song" (No. 3, Op. 61) set to Shakespeare's "Fairies Song" (Act II, Scene 2); 2) an excerpt from Mendelssohn's The First Walpurgis Night for voices and orchestra (Op. 60); and 3) the "Finale" (No. 13, Op. 61) with portions of Oberon's and Titania's speeches at the end of Scene 1, Act V. (The booklet included with the DVD does not provide the texts of the vocals.) This is a "must-have" DVD.
Charles S. Houser | Binghamton, NY | 08/19/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"George Balanchine is remembered most for his one-act, abstract, storyless ballets and is thought to have shunned the full-evening ballets that tell a story. Yet his version of "The Nutcracker" is an annual Christmas money-maker for the ballet company Balanchine helped found (the New York City Ballet) and that company's summer season often closes with his other great story ballet, "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Indeed, the two ballets in many ways seem to be stamped from the same cookie cutter. Both dispose of their drama in the first act and use the second act to dazzle the audience with some splendid divertissements; both ignore the sacred roots of the Christian "feast days" they were created around (the Nativity of our Lord for "The Nutcracker" and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist for "A Midsummer Night's Dream"); and both are littered with ample roles for the School of American Ballet's many child dancers (in "Nutcracker" they are cast as greedy, mutually teasing, parent-manipulated brats romping around the Christmas tree; in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" they are charming, almost camp, butterflies and fairies...though one page does get caught in a custody battle between Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies.)If Balanchine resented choreographing these two story ballets, he hid his resentment well. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is for me the better ballet. The children are well-integrated into what is certainly an adult storyline of sexual jealousy and comical mishaps. And the Pacific Northwest Ballet under the artistic direction of Francia Russell have done Mr. B. proud. Martin Pakledinaz's costumes rival those of Karinska (would it be sacrilege to admit I actually prefer his over hers?) and his set design, with it's oversized frogs and flower blossoms, playfully dwarfs the dancers, reminding us that most of the characters on stage are actually miniature fairyland creatures. The dancers all perform beautifully, with Seth Belliston's Puck stealing the show. My favorite part of the ballet has always been the subplot of the four young lovers: Helena, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius. They are virtually interchangeable; this is signaled by their costumes--one pair wears blue on red, the other red on blue. Due to Puck's inept intervention, the lovers' interests switch with lightning speed. It is truly amusing to watch this amorous tempest in a teapot play out. (My reason for giving this wonderful ballet video 4 stars instead of 5 is that I felt the filming of this pas de quatre spoiled the energy of this scene. When all four dancers are on stage, you really need to see what each one is doing to appreciate all the subtleties of the dance. The emphasis on close-ups and medium close-ups seemed to defuse the dramatic and comic tension that Balanchine so artfully created. But this is not the fault of the dancers--Lisa Apple, Julie Tobiason, Ross Yearsley, and Jeffrey Stanton give it everything they've got.) Children will enjoy seeing Titania fall in love with Bottom who has been given a donkey's head and who finds himself unable to completely return her love because of his new found love of sweet grasses.The second act dancing is beautiful, but courtly and staid. The music draws from a number of works by Felix Mendelssohn, not just from the title work. The vocal pieces sung by Libby Crabtree and Judith Harris were especially nice. the DVD has no extras, but the 12-page color booklet is crammed with interesting information."
Enchanting video of Balanchine's wonderful ballet
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 12/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Balanchine's Midsummer's Night Dream (using Mendelssohn's famous incidental music, plus some other Mendelssohn pieces) has always been one of his most popular ballets -- it seems to meld magic, comedy, and romance better than most productions of Shaksepeare's play! In 1967 he even made a filmof his ballet, with an all-star cast of Suzanne Farrell, Edward Villella, Patricia McBride, Allegra Kent, and Arthur Mitchell. Sadly the rights to this film and tied up and there doesnt look to be any commercial release in the near future. Meanwhile, fans of this ballet can console themselves with Pacific Northwest Ballet's video.
The PNB seems to understand the Balanchine "style" remarkably well -- the sharp quick attacks, the lightning fast penchee arabesques, the mixture of pure athleticism and classical balletic grace. Care was obviously put into this production. The costumes are beautiful, the sets lavish. The cast is uniformly fine, but Patricia Barker deserves honorable mention as Titania. Tall and graceful, she's really enchanting as the Queen of the Fairies. The famous pas de deux with Titania and Bottom is both funny and extremely tender. Louise Nadeau is also enchanting as the second act soloist. She has the most exquisite leg placement, and is a wonderful adagio dancer -- she knows how to infuse each step with meaning. I'm in love with Ms. Nadeau. The adorable children who play the elves are also remarkably together and disciplined.
This ballet makes a lot of use of mime and too often in ballet productions the dancers seem to think of mime as simply waving the hands around and pointing in one direction. But the four lovers, Puck, and Oberon all remind us of how funny and expressive well-done mime can be in a ballet. At its best, mime does not simply explain the story, it enhances it. Puck (Seth Belliston's) confusion at identifying the four lovers is priceless.
The second act of Balanchine's MND is a dance extravaganza (at the Athenian court) and I hate to say this but after the exhilarating first act I always find the second act a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless there is a very well-choreographed divertissment. The pas de deux between the two soloists has one of the most beautiful final poses I've ever seen in any ballet. Louise Nadeau is particularly beautiful and lyrical as the soloist in this divertissment.
The ABT has recently come out with a dvd of Frederick Ashton's "The Dream", a one-act ballet. It stars Alessandra Ferri, Ethan Stiefel, and Herman Cornejo. The different ways Ashton and Balanchine use Mendelssohn's score and choreograph Shakespeare's play provides an interesting contrast. For instance, Balanchine uses the Adagio music from the Mendelssohn score as a pas de deux between Bottom and Titania, while Ashton uses the same music for the reconciliation duet between Titania and Oberon."
Unkindest Cut of All
Pumukau | Milwaukee, WI USA | 02/18/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This would have been an exquisite DVD if it hadn't been edited on rusty Cuisinart. The editing of this video is a crime; everyone involved in this project should be enraged.
Balanchine instructed the editors of film versions of his ballets to "edit on the breaths" or words to that effect. Whoever did this edit cuts mechanically from one POV to the next completely without regard for the action on stage, the rhythm of the music or the dance, or any sense of his own timing. The result is nauseating.
I'm not writing this to dissuade you from buying the dvd; it is a lovely performance of a great ballet. I am hoping that somehow word gets back to the hack who edited this thing that he or she should be ashamed."