Houston Ballet to Launch 45th Season with A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, 9/4-14
From September 4-14, 2014, Houston Ballet launches its 45th season with the company premiere of John Neumeier's visually stunning three-act ballet A Midsummer Night's Dream. The ballet is based on Shakespeare's joyous romantic comedy of the same name and follows the hijinks and hilarity that ensues when a well-intentioned plan with a love potion goes awry. Created in 1977, A Midsummer Night's Dream has served as Mr. Neumeier's calling card, and is one of his most joyous and popular creations. Houston Ballet is the first American ballet company to perform the famous work, and it is the first piece by Mr. Neumeier to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire. Houston Ballet will give seven performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets start at $20, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org, or by calling 713 227 2787.
During its 2014-15 season, the company celebrates the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth by performing three ballets based on his most enduring tales: the company premiere of A Midsummer Night's Dream; the world premiere of Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet February 26 - March 8, 2015; and John Cranko's The Taming of the Shrew June 11 - 21, 2015.
On Friday, September 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm, Houston Ballet will host a free Dance Talk entitled "Ballet and the Bard" at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street. The discussion will focus on dance interpretations of Shakespeare's work and preview the season's three Shakespeare ballets. Featured panelists include Dr. Elizabeth Klett, Associate Professor of Literature at University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch, and members of Houston Ballet artistic staff. Dr. Klett is the author of numerous articles on adaptations of Shakespeare in theatre, film, television and dance.
"John Neumeier is one of the greatest choreographers of narrative ballets in the world today," comments Mr. Welch. "With his four-decade tenure as artistic director of Hamburg Ballet, he has transformed that city into a mecca for dance. A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Neumeier's signature works, a three-act ballet that is a funny, delightful romantic comedy with many magical elements."
Houston Ballet's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is made possible through the generosity of Phoebe and Bobby Tudor. "We realize the importance of bringing works to Houston by the best choreographers in the world today, and John Neumeier is among the best of the best. A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of his masterpieces and seemed a perfect work to add to the company's repertoire," commented Mrs. Tudor. "I think it will be a wonderful challenge for our dancers and I know they will perform it splendidly."
Mr. Neumeier's production skillfully weaves together the three narrative strands of Shakespeare's joyous romantic comedy: the four young lovers who flee the court of Athens for the forest; the world of the fairies, presided over by Oberon, king of the fairies, and his queen Titania, and their mischievous servant Puck; and the six craftsmen who set out to perform a hilarious amateur theatrical production of the love story Pyramus and Thisbe.
Reviewing for Dance Australia, Denise Richardson called the production "Faithful to the original tale . . . it sparkles with humour and a lush sensuality that is captivating". Writing in the South China Morning Post, Jason Gagliardi commented, "Dream we did, swept away by John Neumeier's ambitious staging of the Bard's densely-layered tale. Here is a choreographer at the height of his power - his effortless ranging from classical grand pas de deux to writhing modern mayhem could easily have come over as a messy, silly hodge-podge in the hands of a lesser artist. But Neumeier - who perhaps more than any other choreographer successfully fuses the dance and literary worlds - guides us with assurance and a finely honed sense of humor through Shakespeare's most loved comedy, from its bedroom-farce laughs to its exploration of the nature of illusion and reality..."
Particularly captivating is the set and costume design by Jürgen Rose. The opening scene is awash with shades of blue and cream, and the costumes evoke the elegance of the Regency period. When the ballet shifts to the world of the fairies, the refined human world fades away to smoky green blackness and magical trees dot the stage.
The internationally acclaimed German stage designer Jürgen Rose has enjoyed an illustrious career in design for ballet, opera, and theater in his home country and around the world. Born in Bernburg/Sale, Germany, Mr. Rose studied in Berlin at both the Kunstakademie (Academy of Arts) and the Theatre School. Mr. Rose's famous collaboration with John Cranko began in 1962 when he designed the sets and costumes for the Stuttgart Ballet's production of Romeo and Juliet. Since 1972, Mr. Rose has worked with John Neumeier, artistic director of the Hamburg Ballet, on many ballets. He has designed Mr. Neumeier's full-length Peer Gynt (1989) and Cinderella (1992), both for the Hamburg Ballet.
Music is pivotal to A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the play, Shakespeare created "Three Worlds": the aristocratic world of Duke Theseus and his court; the fairy world of Oberon, Titania and Puck; and the world of the mechanicals Bottom and his friends. Mr. Neumeier uses different music to represent each of these worlds. Mendelssohn Bartholdy's original incidental music accompanies the aristocrats. The organ music of György Ligeti establishes the ethereal world of the fairies; and the mechanicals, or craftsmen, dance to the music of a barrel organ.
Since 1973 Mr. Neumeier has been Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer of The Hamburg Ballet; since 1996 he has been "Ballettintendant" (General Manager). He was born in 1942 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he also received his first dance training. He went on to study ballet both in Copenhagen and at the Royal Ballet School in London. He acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Theater Studies from Marquette University, Wisconsin, where he created his first choreographic works.
In 1963 he was "discovered" in London by Marcia Haydée and Ray Barra, leading John Cranko to engage him at the Stuttgart Ballet, where he progressed to solo dancer. In 1969 Ulrich Erfurth appointed Neumeier as Director of Ballet in Frankfurt, where he soon caused a sensation. This was largely due to his new interpretations of such well-known ballets as The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet and Daphnis and Chloe. In 1973 August Everding brought him to Hamburg. Under Mr. Neumeier's direction The Hamburg Ballet became one of the leading ballet companies in the German dance scene and soon received international recognition. Mr. Neumeier has been particularly inspired by the works of Shakespeare, creating narrative works based upon Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Hamlet.
?Check out a preview of the ballet below!
Pictured: Ballet: A Midsummer Night's Dream. Choreographer: John Neumeier. Dancer(s): Artists of Hamburg Ballet. Photo by Holger Badekow.