A ballet as big in dimensions as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" doesn't stand or fall by the performance of any one role, but Darci Kistler -- a wonderfully wistful, gently joyous Titania -- cast her melodious spell as powerfully on Wednesday and again last night as she had at Tuesday's opening.
Wednesday, Kistler had a new Oberon -- Peter Boal -- and he had a new Puck -- Michael Byars. Boal caused comment on the New York City Ballet's last visit, though he appeared only in the corps. The other night, his very first Oberon lived up to dance expectations: His beats were vigorous and well spaced, his turns plentiful and smooth and, above all, his leap to the side was special, for he went up into the air and stayed awhile.
Beats, turns and leaps are among the materials from which Oberons are spun, but there must also be a commanding presence. Boal often mis-timed a gesture or glance. Many a reaction was too big or small. And when he just had to walk, he seemed unable to move with the elegance with which he can dance. These matters of mime and deportment are second nature to Ib Andersen, opening night's Oberon and last night's. Andersen, though, has the benefit of wider-ranging Danish training.
Byars' speed and impertinence as Puck didn't make their full impact because he must be foil to an authoritative Oberon. It's a mysterious me'nage, this house of elves into which Shakespeare and Balanchine probe. Titania and Oberon may be the only couple in ballet that never engage in adagio. To compensate, Balanchine has choreographed a great pas de deux for the Divertissement dancers in Act 2. This duet becomes the culmination of the relationships of all the couples in "Dream." It should be a divine game. Kyra Nichols and Adam Lu ders, who danced it for the first time here last night, strove for romantic anguish. Underneath, though, they seemed tense, too careful and not at all bent on play. -- George Jackson