|| Boston Herald
|| April 9, 2011
|| Keith Powers
Every great ballet should be part magic, part skill. In George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” there’s magic everywhere. And in Boston Ballet’s inspired interpretation of his fluid choreography, which opened Thursday at the Opera House, ample skill is in evidence throughout.
Showing off his dancers — from his principals all the way down to his talented ballet school students — artistic director Mikko Nissinen proved that he has rebuilt his company into a dancing juggernaut. With Balanchine’s geometrically elegant choreography, and his insightful amalgam of Felix Mendelssohn’s gorgeous music, Nissinen’s troupe had much to work with. “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is almost pure ballet — few gimmicks and fewer props — and the troupe responded with relish.
Lorna Feijoo (Tatania) and John Lam (Oberon) shared the top of the bill and danced beautifully, but the antic Puck (Jeffrey Cirio) and a trio of on-again, off-again amorous couples all demanded attention. The corps, dancing superbly as butterflies, hounds, companions, attendants, courtiers and fairies, interpreted Balanchine’s creative stage designs — intricate lattices of dancers, moving in complex traffic patterns — impeccably.
By the second act, when Larissa Ponomarenko and James Whiteside partnered in a lyrical, proportionate pas-de-deux divertissement, it was clear this was not about an individual soloist or two, but an evening to enjoy the company’s artistic depth.
Not everything was perfect. The sets were monolithic backdrops and the lighting unimaginative — dark for the forest, light for the palace. Conductor Jonathan McPhee’s normally stalwart orchestra did not have the best of evenings, especially in the string department; Mendelssohn, like Mozart, can be deceptively tricky in its simplicity. But the costumes, and the dancers sporting them, looked wonderful.
“Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a ballet for children — and that is not in any way meant as condescension to its complexity. It has great humor (where Shakespeare imagined the lover’s fecklessness as human insecurity, Balanchine offers it as slapstick). It also has melodrama: Characters fall rapturously in and out of love, without ironic distance or malice.
And it has a donkey that dances, a queen who falls in love with it and a legion of arm-waving children, counting time to make their marks, and doing so after obviously intense preparation. That the future of this company performs so well shows what good hands the Boston Ballet is in these days.