Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
April 3, 5 (evening show), and 13, 2008
McCaw Hall, Seattle, Washington
by Dean Speer
Seeing three different performances of this lovely and charming Balanchine ballet prompts several things. One is praising it and another is to report how each cast was “there” in the moment and the differences between the shows in general and between each cast and individual cast members.
Another is the exciting and amazing debut of Laura Gilbreath as Titania. Also a revelation was Benjamin Griffiths as Oberon. My, oh, my! Griffiths is a superb technician whose ease of being able to breeze his way through the most challenging passages, belies their level of difficulty. His bouncy sissonnes battu actually opened while still in the air at the end of each one. Gilbreath was light and willowy and such a “natural” for the role of Titania. I adored her open and radiant face and facility. Gilbreath is a worthy successor to the recently retired Patricia Barker, who virtually “owned” the role of Titania for many seasons.
Among the debuts made, I am sorry to have missed Louise Nadeau’s outing as Titania and find it incredible that she’s never done it before.
We nearly got Ariana Lallone as the complete Hippolyta but on Opening Night as she was making one of her final entrances to start her fouetté sequence, she ran in from stage left, but kept on going to stage right – and off, apparently injured. Replaced by the conclusion of the act by Brittany Reid, whose subsequent performances as Hippolyta were quite strong and very enjoyable. We hope that Lallone will be back treading the ballet boards very soon.
Miranda Weese in the Act II “Divertissement” pas de deux pliantly etched every phrase and movement so cleanly and clearly. Stanko Milov was her attentive partner. While I may have missed Nadeau as Titania, I was fortunate enough to catch two of her essays in this pas, both with Olivier Wevers. This duet is one of the loveliest on the planet and this couple interprets it beautifully, moving as one artistic unit, having the same intent and impulse.
As exciting as the individuals are, one of the glories of Act II are its two ensemble pieces for the Courtiers – large group dancing that’s interesting and varied in its patterns and scope. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, in come the six Divertissement couples, crowned by the pas de deux.
Both the Pucks I saw where fun – each in their own way: Josh Spell and Kiyon Gaines.
Staged by Francia Russell, this Balanchine gem is always a welcome treat that gives opportunities across the PNB ranks for the dancers, crew, musicians, and staff to really show their accomplishments.