Boston Ballet celebrates Spring with A Midsummer Night’s Dream

March 18, 2011

Ballet, Press Releases

ballet dancers on stage

Kelley Potter in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by John Ruttenberg


BOSTON, MA – March 18, 2011 – Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen presents Boston Ballet in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, April 7 – 17, 2011 at The Boston Opera House. This fanciful masterpiece brings exquisite dancing and Shakespeare’s famous tale to the stage at the turn of spring.

“Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an absolutely luscious rendering of this story,” said Nissinen. “Balanchine’s version features the magnificent Act II, almost a ballet within a ballet, which is unique to this production. This Shakespearean tale is brought to life through his masterful choreography and, for the first time, married with sets and costumes by Luisa Spinatelli from Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It will be a radiant vision on stage this spring.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was Balanchine’s first original full-length ballet, which he choreographed for New York City Ballet in January, 1962. Balanchine had a close relationship to the story from childhood, when he appeared as an elf in a theatrical production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. When he choreographed his own version decades later, he used Mendelssohn’s overture and incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, supplemented with various works by the composer. The original cast included Edward Villella as Oberon, Melissa Hayden as Titania, and Arthur Mitchell as Puck.

The 1962 production featured sets by David Hays and costumes by Karinska. Boston Ballet will present the production with costumes and sets by Luisa Spinatelli from Teatro alla Scala in Milan for the first time. The production features 25 young students from Boston Ballet School.

Act I of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a witty interpretation of Shakespeare’s play about love and illusion involving Titania and Oberon, the Queen and King of the Fairies; the sprite, Puck; and two pairs of mortal, mismatched lovers. The first act ends with all the principal players united with their proper partners, and the second act begins with a wedding procession and ceremony. The highlight of Act II is a long, lyrical pas de deux.  Given Balanchine’s intimate knowledge of the play, many have imagined that the pas de deux represents Bottom’s dream. Act II concludes with a return to the forest and the fairies, as Puck sweeps “the dust behind the door.”

Among the most frequently performed of Shakespeare’s plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was likely written in 1595 or 1596 and published for the first time in 1600. It is believed that the play was written for and first performed at a wedding celebration.

Shakespeare’s comedy has inspired operas by Benjamin Britten and Henry Purcell (The Faerie Queen), and a 1939 jazz musical, Swingin’ the Dream, which was choreographed by Agnes de Mille and featured the Benny Goodman Sextet and a cast that included Louis Armstrong as Bottom. There have been at least seven films, including a few silent movies. The most famous cinematic version is the 1935 film directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, with a cast that includes James Cagney as Bottom, Mickey Rooney as Puck, Dick Powell as Lysander and Olivia de Havilland as Hermia.

The first known ballet based on the play dates back to an 1855 production at La Scala in Milan. It was choreographed by Giovani Corsati to music by Paolo Giorza, a composer of dozens of ballets. The first production danced to Mendelssohn’s music was choreographed by Marius Petipa for the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1876. Since then, numerous choreographers have staged their own versions, including Mikhail Fokine (Maryinsky, 1906), Heinz Spoerli (Basel Ballet, 1975), John Neumeier (Hamburg Ballet, 1977), Uwe Scholz (Zurich, 1989) and Christopher Wheeldon (Colorado Ballet, 1997).

The two most eminent versions of the ballet are Balanchine’s production and Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream, a one-act piece choreographed in 1964 in honor of the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Like Balanchine, Ashton found a choreographic language to tell the story with great coherence, poetry and humor. The ballet featured Antoinette Sibley as Titania and Anthony Dowell as Oberon, launching one of the most illustrious dance partnerships of the 20th century.


Conversation with Mikko

Boston Ballet will present Conversation with Mikko, a post-curtain Q&A session with Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director, following the Saturday, April 9, 8:00pm performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Join Boston Ballet following the Thursday, April 14, 7:00pm performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at BiNA Osteria for OFFSTAGE. OFFSTAGE is Boston Ballet’s post-performance event series for young professionals and arts enthusiasts every second Thursday of each performance run. A performance ticket is all you need for entry to this free event featuring specialty cocktails and complimentary appetizers.

Pre-Curtain Talk

Boston Ballet’s Pre-Curtain Talk series continues prior to the Saturday, April 16, 7:00pm performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These informational discussions are free for all ticketholders and begin one hour prior to curtain. 

For more information about these and other events visit the Boston Ballet website.

2010-2011 Season Tickets

Subscriptions and individual tickets are on sale now. Subscriptions and all tickets will be available for sales online 24 hours a day at the Boston Ballet website or by phone at 617.695.6955 or in person at the box office at 19 Clarendon Street, Boston, Mon–Fri, 9:30am-5pm and on performance days on Sat and Sun, 11am – 4pm.  Prices for season ballets start at $25.  Tickets to The Nutcracker start at $35.  Discounted group tickets (10 or more for season ballets and 20 or more for The Nutcracker) are available by calling the box office at 617.695.6955.

About Boston Ballet

Since 1963, Boston Ballet has been one of the leading dance companies in the world on stage, in the studio and in the community.  Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen and Executive Director Barry Hughson, the Company maintains an internationally acclaimed repertoire and the largest ballet school in North America, Boston Ballet School.

Boston Ballet maintains a repertoire of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works, ranging from full-length story ballets to new works by some of today’s finest choreographers. Boston Ballet’s second company, Boston Ballet II, is comprised of dancers who gain experience by performing with the Company and independently, presenting special programs to audiences throughout the Northeast. 

Boston Ballet School, the official school of Boston Ballet, has a long-standing dedication to excellence and access and reaches more than 10,000 students ages 2-adult each year through Boston Ballet School classes, Summer Dance Workshop, Summer Dance Program, Citydance, Taking Steps, and Adaptive Dance.  The wide array of dance programs are held at three studio locations in Boston, Newton, and Marblehead with additional programs throughout New England, as well as community centers and in Boston Public Schools.

Boston Ballet gratefully acknowledges the following institutional partners:

State Street Corporation, 2010 Presenting Sponsor, The Nutcracker

The Boston Foundation

Jane’s Trust

Massachusetts Cultural Council

National Endowment for the Arts

dancer dressed as a donkey on stage

Lorna Feijóo in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Gene Schiavone.

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