Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Barthholdy (1809-1847) and Gyorgy Ligeti (1923-2006)
Choreography by John Neumeier
Scenic Design by Jurgen Rose
Stagers: Janusz Mazon and Niurka Moredo
From September 4-14, 2014, Houston Ballet launches its 45th season with the company premiere of John Neumeier’s three-act ballet A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ballet is based on Shakespeare’s lighthearted play of the same name and follows the hijinks and hilarity that ensues when a well-intentioned plan with a love potion goes awry. Created in 1977, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has served as Mr. Neumeier’s calling card, being seen as one of his most joyous and popular creations. Houston Ballet is the first American ballet company to perform the famous work and it is the first piece by Mr. Neumeier to enter the Houston Ballet repertoire.
“John Neumeier is one of the greatest choreographers of narrative ballets in the world today,” comments Mr. Welch. “With his four-decade tenure as artistic director of Hamburg Ballet, he has transformed that city into a mecca for dance. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Neumeier’s signature works, a three-act ballet that is a funny, delightful romantic comedy with many magical elements.”
Mr. Neumeier’s production skillfully weaves together the three narrative strands of Shakespeare’s joyous romantic comedy: the four young lovers who flee the court of Athens for the forest; the world of the fairies, presided over by Oberon, king of the fairies, and his queen Titania, and their mischievous servant Puck; and the six craftsmen who set out to perform a hilarious amateur theatrical production of the love story Pyramus and Thisbe.
Reviewing for Dance Australia, Denise Richardson called the production “Faithful to the original tale . . . it sparkles with humour and a lush sensuality that is captivating”. Writing in the South China Morning Post, Jason Gagliardi commented, “Dream we did, swept away by John Neumeier's ambitious staging of the Bard's densely-layered tale. Here is a choreographer at the height of his power - his effortless ranging from classical grand pas de deux to writhing modern mayhem could easily have come over as a messy, silly hodge-podge in the hands of a lesser artist. But Neumeier - who perhaps more than any other choreographer successfully fuses the dance and literary worlds - guide us with assurance and a finely honed sense of humor through Shakespeare's most loved comedy, from its bedroom-farce laughs to its exploration of the nature of illusion and reality..."
Particularly captivating is the set and costume design by Jürgen Rose. The opening scene is opulent and awash with shades of blue and cream, and the costumes evoke the elegance of the Regency period. When the ballet shifts to the world of the fairies, the refined human world fades away to smoky green blackness and magical trees dot the stage.
Music is pivotal to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the play, Shakespeare created “Three Worlds”: the aristocratic world of Duke Theseus and his court; the fairy world of Oberon, Titania and Puck; and the world of the mechanicals Bottom and his friends. Mr. Neumeier uses different music to represent each of these worlds. Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s original incidental music accompanies the aristocrats. The organ music of György Ligeti establishes the ethereal world of the fairies; and the mechanicals, or craftsmen, dance to the music of a barrel organ.