San Francisco Ballet opens new digital season with Balanchine’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Sasha De Sola and Lucas Erni in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet goes digital with the Company’s 2021 season. The calendar is as interesting as ever, with a fascinating mix of classics, full-length ‘story’ ballets, contemporary works which have proved successful in previous seasons, and new offerings from an impressive list of choreographers.

To open the season, San Francisco Ballet presents George Balanchine’s enchanting production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Set to music by Felix Mendelssohn it’s based on Shakespeare’s 1595 comedy, and tells the story we all know so well – of Titania (Sasha De Sola is exquisite in the role) and Oberon, the mischievous Puck, the lovers Helena and Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander, and Bottom with his ass’s head – superbly danced by Company members with a supporting cast of 25 children.

This production was filmed at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House in March last year, with just one performance taking place before the pandemic abruptly forced the closure of all theatres and live performances. This was a huge disappointment for Bay Area audiences, but – by way of a silver lining – audiences around the world can now enjoy it, thanks to the magic of the digital age.

Creatively conceived, with Balanchine’s characteristic choreography and eye for spectacle, this production of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is San Francisco’s Ballet’s first staging of the work for 34 years. Not to be confused with Sir Frederick Ashton’s 1964 one-act ballet The Dream (also based on the Shakespeare play), this version, created in 1962, takes place over two acts – the first in a woodland setting, followed by a celebration in the Court of King Theseus.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

For the score, Balanchine extended on Mendelssohn’s Overture and Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night’s Dream – which he credited as his inspiration for the ballet – with additional compositions by the composer – his overtures to Athalie and The Fair Melusine, The First Walpurgis Night and the first three movements of his Symphony No 9 for Strings.

Staged by Sandra Jennings of the George Balanchine Trust, with additional coaching by the Company’s Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson, this production is elegantly costumed – designed, along with beautiful woodland sets – by Tony Award-winning designer, the late Martin Pakledinaz. Lighting is by Randall G Chiarelli, and the filming was directed by Frank Zamacona.

Frances Chung and Ulrik Birkkjaer in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s Music Director and Principal Conductor, Martin West, leads the SF Ballet Orchestra and Bay Area-based vocal ensemble Volti.

George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be viewed online until February 10th. Single stream tickets are priced at $29, with access available for 72 hours. The Premium Digital Program – covering all seven programs in the season and exclusive bonus content – can be purchased for $289. Further details, tickets and access to the online streams are available via the San Francisco Ballet website.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes
The George Balanchine Trust

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