This capture was filmed at the War Memorial Opera House on March 6, 2020, the opening night of what was to be a run of the ballet, but ended up being cancelled due to the shutdown resulting from the pandemic.
The Bay Area Reporter deemed the performance “the best dancing, the best of everything . . . [with] new pleasures of many kinds.”
A tale of love, magic, and revelry that’s fun for the entire family, the full-length ballet includes some of Shakespeare’s best-known characters, including Titania, Oberon, Puck, and donkey-headed Bottom—providing more than 100 roles in all, including 14 leading parts and a cast of 25 children.
“I think Balanchine did such a superb job with Midsummer. It has humor. It has suspense. It has love. And even if you are not a ballet aficionado, you immediately understand what’s going on.”
Midsummer, which was Balanchine’s first original full-length ballet, features non-stop dancing and distills Shakespeare’s five acts into two.
When Titania, the Queen of Fairies, refuses to give up her young page, King Oberon enlists the trickster Puck to stir up some magic, causing a domino effect among fairy and human couples alike.
Repetiteur Sandra Jennings of The George Balanchine Trust staged the production, which includes woodland scenes and costumes designed by Tony Award-winner Martin Pakledinaz, a longtime SF Ballet collaborator whose work can be seen in the Company’s productions of Nutcracker and Don Quixote, and celestial lighting designed by Randall G. Chiarelli.
Midsummer‘s cast of fairies, mortals, bugs, and mis-matched lovers is set to music by Felix Mendelssohn, performed by the SF Ballet Orchestra and Bay Area-based vocal ensemble Volti under the direction of SF Ballet Music Director Martin West.