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NYCB Vol. 3 No. 43 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

(6/12) Oberon, King of the Fairies

Eddie Villella, who originated the role spoke of the experience in his autobiography:

“It was simply a wonderful variation […] The fun part was making Oberon a little bit devilish while retaining the classical conception. […] I was beginning to understand the concept of slower being faster: in order to dance quickly, I had to take the time to articulate everything to acquire the speed.

“My mother told me [on opening night] that she didn’t recognize me when I came out onstage. She thought Oberon looked six foot two. The scherzo stopped the performance, and I received a prolonged ovation.

[The next morning when Eddie entered the empty City Center theater] “Balanchine had just arrived, wearing his worn and wrinkled trench coat and carrying a newspaper under his arm. He saw me and nodded and kept walking on his way. Then he stopped, he turned around and looked at me. He walked up to me slowly. ‘You know, last night you danced excellent,’ he said. ‘Excellent.’ He stepped closer to me and put his arm around my shoulder. ‘Excellent.’ Emotions turned over in my chest. He was certainly not given such expressions, and not to a man. I was terribly grateful. […] He nodded, removed his arm, and walked away. Those words were the greatest compliment that Mr. B ever gave me.” — Prodigal Son: Dancing for Balanchine in a World of Pain and Magic, 1992.

(top row) Edward Villella, 1966.

(bottom, left) Edward Villella with John Clifford as Puck, 1970.

(bottom, center) Edward Villella with Deni Lamont as Puck, 1970.

Photos by Martha Swope

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