Carolina Ballet finishes its 13th season with George Balanchine's glorious "A Midsummer Night's Dream." With its impressive precision and bravura style, the production confirms the company's first-rank professional status.
Considered the greatest choreographer of the 20th century, Balanchine is known for abstract, plotless ballets. But in 1962 he came up with a classic in "Midsummer," his first original story ballet.
Carolina Ballet has been a keeper of the Balanchine flame, programming many of his works, including "Midsummer" once before, in 2004. As for all Balanchine presentations, the Balanchine Trust sent a representative, Sandra Jennings, to stage this production. The result has some of the most vivid and energetic dancing from Carolina Ballet in years.
At Thursday's opening, Lilyan Vigo's Titania was a vision of ethereal beauty, wafting regally in her exquisite pas de deux with cavalier Marcelo Martinez. As Oberon, Gabor Kapin took his stellar talents to new heights, portraying the character's cheeky vanity with astounding jumps and legwork. Pablo Javier Perez was born to play Puck, his impish shenanigans performed at lightening speed.
As the mismatched lovers, Eugene Barnes with Randi Osetek and Richard Krusch with Margaret Severin-Hansen displayed subtle acting skills and genuine humor. Barbara Toth's Hippolyta spun and leapt athletically, while Yevgeny Shlapko as the gentle, sympathetic Bottom never overplayed the man-into-donkey transformation. Dozens of children as fireflies, ladybugs and butterflies amazed with their confident steps and characterizations.
The imaginative scenery and costumes from Ballet West and San Francisco Ballet were enchanting in Ross Kolman's lighting, and Mendelssohn's music, even though recorded, wraps the production in sunny buoyancy.
Three new works preceded the 70-minute one-act "Midsummer."
Robert Weiss' pas de deux for Melissa Podcasy and Timour Bourtasenkov to Brahms' Violin Concerto matches the music's quiet mood with pensive restraint. With Lara O'Brien, Attila Bongar danced his own choreography to a Rachmaninoff prelude, the romantic duo's arresting combinations melting smoothly into a unified whole.
Bongar also contributed "An Invisible Story," a gripping piece set to Shostakovich's moody Cello Concerto. Four male dancers depict the struggle against oppression, each detaching himself further from a coldly controlling corps. Bongar's concept works well, although some sections lose tension where minimal movement seems at odds with the frenzied music.
The program was long at two and a half hours, but the rapturous Balanchine dispelled all quibbles.