A Midsummer Letter from Lourdes Lopez
There has been a lot written about Miami City Ballet’s reimagining of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, from my perspective, perhaps too much. The simple truth is that I wanted to demonstrate the universality of Balanchine’s choreography (and Shakespeare’s sublime play) by revealing them in a new and richly suggestive setting.
Both the play and the ballet follow the romantic adventures and misadventures, quarrels and reconciliations, of two pairs of mortal lovers as well as of Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies. And so it is at heart a ballet about the transforming power of love.
The first wholly original evening-length ballet Mr. Balanchine choreographed in America, it premiered in 1962, and two years later the New York City Ballet chose to open its first repertory season at the just-built New York State Theater at Lincoln Center with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Mr. Balanchine, a true genius, was famous for working fast, producing many of his ballets in days, not months, but it took him over twenty years to assemble a cohesive score to supplement Mendelssohn’s famous Midsummer incidental music (including the famous wedding march), which was not nearly long enough for an evening-length work. Though Mr. Balanchine once said that it was Mendelssohn’s music that inspired him to create the ballet, he was also familiar with Shakespeare’s play from an early age. As a child he had appeared as an elf in a production in St. Petersburg, and he could (and did!) recite portions of the play by heart in Russian.
A number of years ago, while serving as the executive director of The George Balanchine Foundation and investigating Mr. Balanchine’s Dream, I began thinking of a new approach to this narrative masterpiece, one that would of course preserve the integrity of the choreography while high-lighting new aspects of the entire dramatic experience. Later, when I moved to Miami to head MCB, the possibility of such a reimagining started to become more real. An extraordinary leadership gift from Claudia and Stephen Perles provided the spark that set this major undertaking in motion.
My first step was to secure the “blessing” of The George Balanchine Trust, which they graciously gave, and next I reached into the international artistic community to identify artists for this reimagining. To my surprise and delight I found two with close ties to Miami: Michele Oka Doner for original sets and costumes and Tarell Alvin McCraney for dramatic direction. Together, they transferred Shakespeare’s magical Athenian forest, where fairies and sprites manipulate and control humans, to our surrounding waterways with their rich marine life, creating an estuary where these ‘otherworldly’ activities take place. All of this, while remaining loyal to the production’s three geniuses, Shakespeare, Mendelssohn, and Balanchine.
For me, narrative ballets link literature, music, and design to dance, creating entertainment that attracts more audiences and families to experience the art form. Just think of what Balanchine accomplished with his introduction of The Nutcracker! How many people have been introduced to this art form through The Nutcracker? How many people have become engaged in the arts through it? How many lives changed by it? My hope is that the same thing will happen in South Florida through our lovingly reconsidered A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
This has been a labor of love for all of us at Miami City Ballet, where we are committed to keeping Balanchine’s incomparable legacy alive. I hope and believe you will be entranced by the beauty of this new production, and will come to love this ravishing ballet as all of us do who have lived with it for so many years – and in my own case, danced it so happily for more than two decades!
Miami City Ballet