Christopher Wheeldon’s take on the fairy tale soars on the wings of Sergei Prokofiev’s appealingly dissonant and yearning score, played superbly by the ballet orchestra under the baton of Martin West.
Exceptional dancing, Craig Lucas’ complex libretto, Daniel Brodie’s projections and Julian Crouch’s magical scenery and costumes add up to a spectacle that explains why the production sold out in The City before its first performance last year, and the rave reviews the company received on its tour to New York’s Lincoln Center.
Wheeldon’s treatment imbues the rags-to-riches story — told by Charles Perrault in 1697 and subsequently in a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale — with new characters, humor and lyricism.
It’s hard to imagine anyone as convincing in the title role as Maria Kochetkova, who appeared Tuesday in the opening performance of Program 4 of the 2014 season. At 30, she combines the maturity and steely certainty of a prima ballerina in her prime with a willowy, ethereal presence of girlish purity — and believably triumphs over adversity.
As the prince, Joan Boada showcased grace and elegance. Taras Domitro, as the prince’s friend Benjamin, displayed breathtaking speed and virtuosity, and was funny, too.
The stepsisters in this production are more human than the cruel caricatures of other versions. Frances Chung, wearing glasses as Clementine, was both side-splitting and warm. And Sasha De Sola was eminently impressive as Edwina, the less sympathetic stepsister.
Shannon Rugani brilliantly portrayed the stepmother, who wasn’t pure evil but rather a bungling, confused drunk — both amusing and pitiable.
Four Fates, who protect and carry Cinderella in this unique presentation — and wear masks — deserve particular credit. On opening night, Gaetano Amico, Daniel Deivision-Oliveira, Steven Morse and Luke Willis got a difficult job done.
While many minor roles got first-class treatment, the corps de ballet had some moments of less than crisp ensemble dancing.
In the end, though, the production will be remembered not just for the dancing, but for its plentiful, spectacular stage magic — in the form of a gigantic, dynamic tree, representing the spirit of Cinderella’s mother, grimacing portraits, flying chairs and an amazing living carriage.
San Francisco Ballet Program 4
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. today-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and March 22; 2 p.m. Sunday and March 23
Tickets: $39 to $355 Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org