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Artistic synergy ignites in Midsummer program

  • Jul 7, 2009
From The Register-Guard Celebrating two of this year’s Oregon Bach Festival’s themes — William Shakespeare and Felix Mendelssohn — the Eugene Ballet Company joined forces with the festival orchestra, singers and narrators in presenting a satisfying and well-attended performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Sunday afternoon at the Hult Center. Aside from the overture, Mendelssohn didn’t compose any music to be played during Act I, and much of his incidental music to Shakespeare’s comedy was to be heard between scenes, with occasional instrumental or vocal music to accompany the action or underscore dialogue. This presented choreographer Toni Pimble, EBC’s artistic director, with an interesting challenge. Since the musical numbers don’t tell the whole story, two members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival advanced the action by delivering selected lines from the play. The tale, as related in this production, begins not in the ducal palace in Athens, but in the forest. Act I was essentially left out of the story. Aside from the four lovers who run off to the forest, we don’t encounter the Athenian nobles. “The Wedding March,” composed as music to precede Act V to set the mood for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, became in this production a march for the union of Bottom, the donkey-headed rustic, and Titania, the fairy queen. All of the dancing was first-class, with emphasis on humor. A nimble and springy Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero brought all of the scheming mischievousness you’d want in a Puck. As Bottom, Petr Orlov moved in such a way as to be both lumbering and artful in a brutish way, to great comic effect. The other rustics stomped delightfully; fairies and sprites flitted about with fluid grace. Supple movement and communicativeness characterized the dancing of the lovers. Dubraskha Arrivillaga proved graceful and lithe as Hermia, and Gillmer Duran gallant as Lysander. A lithesome Suzanne Hagg danced the part of Helena, with a sinewy Hyuk-Ku Kwon as Demetrius. Leoannis Pupo-Guillen glided with athletic vigor and fluency as Oberon, the king of the fairies, and Jennifer Martin, as Titania, moved with poise and refinement. The pair danced a beautiful and poignant duet at the end, to the sounds of the Nocturne, music that was originally composed for the end of Act III. This is the only place where Pimble altered Mendelssohn’s original sequence of numbers; her decision turned out to be a wise choice. The Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, under conductor Robin Engelen’s able leadership, played with artfulness and precision. There were a few times that I wished for a less assertive, lighter sound, but on the whole, subtlety and refinement characterized the playing. A couple of the movements call for singers, and the Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy women’s chorus, prepared by Anton Armstrong, delivered the vocal lines with élan and clarity. One thing I especially liked about this “Midsummer” was how synergistic all of the artistic elements were. David Heuvel’s costumes were fanciful but not fussy, Kelly Baum’s lighting was subtle and effective and Peter Dean Beck’s colorful sets made a perfect venue for fairies to dwell.