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Paris Opéra Ballet

The Dream: Balanchine
narrative or Balanchinian?
Le Songe d’une nuit d’été – chor. George
Balanchine, mus. Felix Mendelssohn
Paris, Opéra Garnier

In his Festival of Ballet (1978) Balanchine
writes: “Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s
Dream has always been a favorite of mine ever
since I first saw it and appeared in the play
as a child in Russia. I suppose it was then that
I came to know so many lines from the play.
[…] But what has really interested me more
than Shakespeare’s words in recent years has
been the music that Mendelssohn wrote to the
play, and I think it can be said that the ballet
was inspired by the score. . […] The story of
the ballet, of course, concerns the adventures
and misadventures of a group of mortals and
immortals… I think it is possible to see and
enjoy the ballet without knowing the play. At
least that was my hope in creating the piece.” Ida Viikinkoski – Paris Opéra Ballet: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”,
Crystal-clear. And yet is commonplace to c. George Balanchine (ph. A. Poupeney)
hear non connoisseurs repeat that Balanchine’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1962) is an un-
resolved ballet, with a first act that completely mime and choreography, story-telling and pure cal, dynamic or poetic. While the second act
concentrates on the story and a second act of dancing. I avoid using the word “abstraction” is a magnificent ballet concertant, almost in its
pure dancing (with the pretext of a final cel- that would be senseless. own right.
ebration). In fact, the mime in the first act is reduced The Paris Opéra did very well to revive it
Instead, apart from being simply a beautiful to the bare minimum. The two couples of lovers this season. The company has quite a rich
musical and poetic ballet, full of dancing and – who, spellbound, swap feelings, their en- Balanchine repertoire, but staging a Balanchine
choreographic inventiveness, the Dream is a fun- trances, exits, loving, rejecting, chasing, flee- work will never be enough.
damental passage in Balanchine’s oeuvre that – ing, reconciliations – and Titania’s dream… all That the Opéra dancers are not perfectly in
in a balletic context – settles differences between is clear, but all is dance, whether fast or lyri- their element in the Balanchine style of dancing

Eleonora Abbagnato, Stéphane Bullion – Paris Opéra Ballet: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, c. George Balanchine
(ph. A. Poupeney)