Music is not always honored at the ballet, but it should be.
San Francisco Ballet’s Program 7 does exceptionally well with music, offering Stravinsky’s 1947 classic “Petrouchka,” in the story ballet of the same name by Michel Fokine; Schoenberg’s 1899 ultra-romantic “Transfigured Night,” in Renato Zanella’s “Underskin”; and Michael Torke’s 1989 dynamic “Ash,” in the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Number Nine.”
The ballet orchestra has a field day with these great pieces, performing with élan under the knowing direction of Emil deCou. The Stravinsky is properly raucous, the Schoenberg transparently beautiful, the Torke of contagious energy.
The title role of “Petrouchka,” the love-smitten, indestructible puppet, is often danced with excessive pathos. At the Sunday matinee, Gennadi Nedvigin performed the difficult part exactly right. He was well supported by Dores Andre’s Ballerina and Quinn Wharton’s Moor.
The large, colorful crowd — consisting of the corps, ballet school students and supernumeraries — is up to the best traditions of Broadway.
“Underskin” leaves behind the simple, affecting story of “Transfigured Night” for a bewildering narration of something symbolic and probably significant. Elana Altman, Maria Kochetkova, Sarah Van Patten and Pascal Molat, among other dancers, are solid in the piece.
Among two dozen dervishes realizing the irresistible “Number Nine,” performers leading the way include Frances Chung, Lorena Feijoo, Kochetkova, Yuan Yuan Tan, Victor Luiz, Molat, Ruben Martin Cintas and Nedvigin. The whirl would be a hit in any ballet, and the piece has color to spare that would look good on the bland “Chroma” of the ballet’s Program 6, also onstage this week.
Now, here’s a note about the important and delightful increase of young children attending ballet — not only “Nutcracker,” but matinees and evening performances of various programs.
The upcoming season-closing program is John Neumeier’s full-length ballet “The Litte Mermaid,” based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story. But it’s not a show for children, especially young ones. As the company warns: “This production focuses on the deeper, mature themes of the original story and is not recommended for younger children.”
One final comment about children audience members: Booster cushions, given out at “Nutcracker” performances, should be available at other times as well. Ballet administrators and opera house ushers (separate entities) need to work together to ensure that bona fide children — not adults who think they are entitled — receive them.
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 7:30 p.m. April 13; 8 p.m. April 14, April 16 and April 19; 2 p.m. April 16
Tickets: $20 to $260
Contact: (415) 865-2000; www.sfballet.org