Film/Ballet Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A filmed stage production of the Paris Opera Ballet Company, retelling one of the Bard’s classic comedies of love, fairies and magic in the woods.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet Company, is a retelling of the Bard’s classic tale with a difference: Mendelssohn only wrote the overture and incidental music for Shakespeare’s play, clearly not enough for a full-length ballet.

George Balanchine, once choreographer for the legendary Ballet Russe, then founder of the New York City Ballet added other Mendelssohn pieces to create an Act 2 which is the wedding of the star-crossed lovers.

For those who have not seen the original play – Titania, Queen of the Fairies, fights over a changeling child with Oberon, the King of the Fairies, and his apprentice, the sprite Puck. The play also follows the adventures of a band of explorers, led by the lovers Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius.

Puck uses a magic flower to interfere with the romances of the four explorers, and a complicated love triangle and comedy of errors ensues.

The 1962 version of the ballet has been keep intact choreographically thanks to the Balanchine Trust, but the design for sets and costumes was brilliantly created and executed by the legendary Christian Lacroix, famous as a French fashion designer. Lacroix returned to hand painted traditional sets and sparkling heavily detailed costumes which gave the whole ballet a lush feel and transported us to the woodlands where only fairies dwell.

For me there were three standout performances in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Puck, King Oberon and an unnamed Asian pas de deux ballerina in Act 2.

Emmanuel Thibault as Puck, complete with transparent glittering tights was every inch a Puck, light as air, cheeky and a real comedian. He became the storyteller of Act 1 and although there was not a lot of technique demanded of this role, his acting skills certainly shone.

Hugo Marchand as King Oberon owned the stage whenever he was dancing. The lightness of his jetes, triple pirouettes and batterie were a joy to watch. He was nobility personified.

I cannot find mention of the Asian dancer who performed the main “blue” pas de deux in Act 2. This is a pity as her technique outshone every other dancer on stage. This is a technically difficult pas de deux and she performed her part with ease, drawing applause from the cinema audience.

My main criticism was the lack of synchronisation from the corps de ballet, arms were not consistent and some of the dancers lacked accurate timing. I also found the choice of shorts for the male corps in the “blue” section of Act 2 strange. It did not seem to match the rest of the design.

Overall though, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a magical experience that can be enjoyed by young and old!

Reviewed by Barry Hill
Twitter: @kinesguy

Rating out of 10:  8

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will screen again on 10May 2017 as part of the Palace Opera & Ballet cinema season, presenting The Royal Opera House, La Scala and Opéra national de Paris – exclusive to the Palace Nova Eastend cinemas.

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