Pacific Northwest Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Review
April 28, 2023 | Digital
There’s no question that George Balanchine’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s play is one of the most popular, and the production of Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream demonstrates precisely why.
In general, who wouldn’t love a story of amorous confusion, mischievousness, and royalty set in a fantastical world filled with magic, beauty, and effervescence?
Now imagine you have some of the most illustrious artists in the ballet industry portraying the fabulous cast of fantastical, fluttering, and human characters, all the while with Felix Mendelssohn’s score as their aural guide… these are ingredients for a recipe of undoubtable success.
The great thing is that you don't have to imagine much longer. You can see it for yourself.
Pacific Northwest Ballet has decided to continue digital offerings of each program they perform at their home theater, McCaw Hall in Seattle, a practice that began out of necessity during the height of the pandemic. Which means that you can watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as their entire 2023-2024 season from the comfort of your own home.
And believe me; you will want to.
Review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's A Midsummer Night's Dream
The overture of a performance, that anticipatory moment before the curtain rises (or opens) and the stage is revealed to us, is so special; whether it be the spine-tingling grandeur of Tchaikovsky’s strings in Serenade, or the deceptive tranquility before the storm that is Stravinsky in Rubies, or the initial whispering melody of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream singing softly at first as if sharing a secret.
Indeed, we are transported into a secret garden of sorts where a Fairy King and Fairy Queen reign and where swarms of insects are bearers of joy rather than a warm-weather nuisance.
We are quickly given hints to the stories behind both the mortals and the immortals. Helena, in (unrequited) love with Demetrius, walks melancholically alone through the forest, a world only truly appreciated by its natural inhabitants; humans pay no attention to the buzzing around them as they are all too consumed by their own drama.
Meanwhile, the Fairy King Obreron and Fairy Queen Titania (Kyle Davis and Elizabeth Murphy) are in a tiff because the King is adamant about wanting to have the Queen’s page by his side instead.
And Puck, Oberon’s beck and call servant is, well… being Puck. From Christian Poppe’s very first entrance, trotting on high demi-pointe with playfulness written all over his face, it is clear that he is not only a significant connection between the two realms but the source of many amusing moments throughout the next hour-and-a-half.
As with many full-length classical ballets, Midsummer‘s Act I is much about the storytelling while Act II takes advantage of the resolution of all the previous conflicts as a wonderful excuse to celebrate.
There are so many details to elaborate upon but the highlights of the first act really come down to the chemistry between the dancers; the subtleties and nuances of the choreography and mime are what move the story forward and make it so entertaining.
Murhphy’s Titania is especially lovely during her pas de deux with Bottom, danced by Ezra Thomson. Her tenderness and sweet smile are a stark contrast from the aloofness she portrays when communicating with Oberon, establishing a distinct difference between her two emotions.
And the mess that ensues when Puck erroneously waves the enchanted flower in front of Lysander’s nose rather than Demetrius’ is fantastically played out by Cecilia Iliesiu, Miles Pertl, Leta Biasucci, and James Yoichi Moore. The quartet shine for both their acting and technical skills.
Now before saying more about the second act, there are a few of truths that require my full disclosure:
- My mind has been known to wander far, far away during the Divertissement section that opens the act.
- I do not know Lesley Rausch or Dylan Wald personally.
- I was in no way coerced into writing this review.
That all being said, if there is one reason to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is the Divertissement pas de deux.
My eyes were glued to the screen as Rausch and Dylan Wald gifted the world one of the most beautiful duets I have ever seen.
And I’ve seen a lot.
Rausch and Wald are absolutely gracious and elegant, he being her perfect complement choreographically, artistically, and emotionally.
Perhaps it is because we are approaching the final countdown before Rausch bows for the last time on the McCaw Hall stage, but there is something so special about this performance; I can’t even imagine what the experience was like for those watching it live considering the intensity with which I felt it through video.
Words cannot fully express my feelings at this point, so I leave you with this: my eyes were watering as their dance came to an end.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is available to stream until Monday, May 1, 2023 at 11:59PM (PST).
Featured Photo of Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Ezra Thomson as Bottom and principal dancer Elizabeth Murphy as Titania in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling.
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