SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Ballet presents George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a tale of love, magic, and revelry that’s fun for the entire family, on March 6–15 at the War Memorial Opera House.
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,’” says artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson, who danced as Oberon, King of the Fairies, with New York City Ballet in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. “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.”
When Titania, the Queen of Fairies, refuses to give up her charming young page, King Oberon enlists the trickster Puck to stir up some magic, causing a domino effect among fairy and human couples alike.
The production includes woodland scenes and costumes designed by Tony Award-winner Martin Pakledinaz, a longtime San Francisco 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, and San Francisco Ballet’s 10 performances will feature Volti, a live chorus, performing with the Ballet Orchestra throughout the run.
Non-stop dancing is a highlight of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which distills Shakespeare’s five acts into two. Act I introduces the story and characters at a rapid pace, while Act II is devoted to a wedding scene with a divertissement between two newly introduced characters.
“There’s Hippolyta’s solo, Hermia’s solo, several pas de deux as well as a dance for six couples that occurs in the ballet’s second act. But one of the very first pieces I teach is Oberon’s solo, which is supremely difficult,” says Sandra Jennings in “In Dance.”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is Balanchine’s first original full-length ballet completed in America, created in 1962 for New York City Ballet. He had been inspired by Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer” compositions, both a concert overture and incidental music for the play, though the pieces were not long enough to use for an evening-length ballet.
A conservatory-trained musician, Balanchine pieced together additional selections from Mendelssohn’s repertory to complete the ballet’s music, including a selection of concert overtures; the String Symphony No. 9 in C minor; and The First Walpurgis Night, a secular cantata for full chorus. The production runs two hours in length, including one 15-minute intermission.
On Wednesday, March 11, Helgi Tomasson will be featured in a free and public Pointes of View lecture from 6-6:45 p.m. in the War Memorial Opera House. A pre-performance fundraising dinner will take place on opening night, Friday, March 6, at the Conservatory of Flowers. Meet the Artist interviews will take place March 6 at 7 p.m; March 8 at 1 p.m; March 12 immediately following the performance; March 14 immediately following the matinee; and March 15 at 1 p.m.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” tickets may be purchased via the Ticket Services Office at 415-865-2000, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or at www.sfballet.org. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
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