Love was in the air on Wednesday night when New York City Ballet presented one of its classic crowd-pleasers, George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
And even though this evening-length creation has been shown too many times to count at SPAC, the Shakespearean comedy always delights. So the love spread well beyond the stage libretto to the audience, which chuckled and sighed at all the deeds and mishaps that occur in this enchanted woodland.
Though home to fairies, fireflies, fauns and goddesses, the landscape of this tale is pure magic — thanks to both the shimmering music by Mendelssohn (briskly conducted by Facal Karoui) and Balanchine’s mastery of the story. It’s unlikely many choreographers could weave this narrative with such clarity, allure and a sure-footed sense of comic timing.
Needless to say, the fine casting played a part in “Midsummer” sorcery. Joaquin de Luz played his Oberon with vigor, showing off his strength in his tight and true batterie. Maria Kowroski as Titania was lovely. Her combination of sweetness and beauty served the mistress of the forest well.
Adam Hendrickson, a Puck, the faithful servant to Oberon, infused his role with his trademark zeal. The entangled lovers were danced to hilarious effect by Rebecca Krohn, Jennie Somogyi (who sparkled), Jonathon Stafford and Arch Higgins. There were many moments to savor as the quartet pursued their loves and cast aside their rivals through the groves in the misty summer night.
And then there is the sweet and silly scene with Titania who tenderly mothers the unfortunate thespian that Puck has turns into a donkey. All this started over a custody battle between Titania and Oberon over a young servant boy.
The plot lines are generously sprinkled with languid dancing by Titania’s retinue and broad strokes of flights by Oberon’s butterflies. Puck buzzes in and out of it all. And that’s just the first half.
Once the lovers are properly realigned, the second half opens with a wedding march set for royalty. Grandly, the corps de ballet frames the processional of couples (Hippolyta and Theseus included) in their walk to marital bliss.
Yet the best moment is yet to come – Wendy Whelan and Jared Angle in the divertissement. No ballerina dances it better. Whelan performed this tender pas de deux with a delicacy that could drive a viewer to tears. When she falls into the arms of Angle, she melts. Amazingly, her artistry continues to blossom. There is no telling where Whelan’s devotion and imagination will lead.
The wedding party gives way to the forest creatures once again. With all at peace, the fireflies flicker and Puck takes flight into the night.
Unfortunately, City Ballet has no plans to perform “Midsummer” at any other evening performances. Much is lost at the matinees as the glowing effects of the lighting, essential to the atmosphere, is lost. It’s still recommended viewing for all who love love, the summer night and falling under a spell.