William Shakespeare’s works have greatly contributed to the development of ballet, time and again inspiring choreographers of different epochs. That is why, in the dawn of the global celebrations of the genius bard’s 400th anniversary of death in 2016, the Polish National Theatre is launching its special Shakespearian project. The series of Shakespeare premieres will start with the ballet rendition of his Midsummer Night’s Dream. The comedy has been explored by many choreographers before, but none of the ballet adaptations is on a par with that of Johna Neumeiera, the legendary US choreographer, founder and long-time director of the Hamburg Ballett. His is the only version that fully renders the magic and essence of this Shakespeare play. The set and costumes were designed by the renowned German artist Jürgen Rose, while the music is conducted by Łukasz Borowicz.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a charming comedy of a love commotion taking place in real life and in the fantasy world of fairies. It is also one of John Neumeier’s most beautiful ballets. First staged in 1977 at the Hamburg Ballett, it subsequently entered the repertoire of the Paris and Vienna operas, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and the royal ballet companies of Stockholm and Copenhagen. The three realities at play in this Shakespeare comedy have their distinctive choreographic and musical setting. The royal court dances to the Romantic music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the fairies whirl to the contemporary sounds by György Ligeti, while the labourers perform to the traditional barrel organ music. As a whole, the ballet radiates the choreographer’s empathy, humour and poesy. It is one of the most beautiful lyrical comedies in the world’s ballet repertoire.
The last time John Neumeier worked in Poland with Warsaw’s ballet was almost 30 years ago, in 1984. In the meantime, he did not have much contact with Poland, which – as he said at the Thursday press conference – makes him notice even clearer how the ballet has changed over time. He still sees the characteristic motivation shared by everybody (which distinguishes Warsaw’s ballet, at least, from the ensembles Neumeier worked with in the US), yet there is a new flavour to it: new dynamics, intensity, and international character, which made the Polish National Ballet achieve a global level.