San Francisco Ballet’s mixed Program Six mostly a delight 

click to enlarge San Francisco Ballet’s Program Six inlcudes a reprise of Edwaard Liang’s “Symphonic Dances.” - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • San Francisco Ballet’s Program Six inlcudes a reprise of Edwaard Liang’s “Symphonic Dances.”

Although the San Francisco Ballet’s sixth program got off to a shaky start at the War Memorial Opera House, the troupe’s star dancers quickly overcame the initial deficiency and the mixed repertory evening proved delightful.

Yet Tuesday’s opening performance began with an unusually awkward entrance by the corps, marching on steps, in “Raymonda Act III.” Almost immediately, things picked up with bravura performances by Vanessa Zahorian and Taras Domitro, and bright solos by Sarah Van Patten, Frances Chung and Sasha De Sola.

Rudolf Nureyev’s 1966 restaging of the Marius Petipa classic, depicting a vaguely medieval Hungarian scenery — dancers wear white uniforms and caps with feathers (by Barry Kay) — is entertaining, a balletic upgrade, of sorts, of a piece in an Eastern European ethnic dance festival.

Ming Luke’s conducting ensured the orchestra’s spirited rendition of the Glazunov score.

Next was a welcome reprise of Val Caniparoli’s more substantive “Ibsen’s House.” References to Ibsen’s great plays “Hedda Gabler,” “A Doll’s House” and “Ghosts” were clear, but those to two lesser-known dramas, “Rosmersholm” and “The Lady From the Sea,” made the dance difficult to follow at times.

Five women introduced the work, setting the dramatic scene (set and costume design by Sandra Woodall) then paired for pas de deux: Lorena Feijoo with Vitor Luiz, Dana Genshaft with Davit Karapetyan, Sofiane Sylve with Tiit Helimets, De Sola with Anthony Spaulding, and Courtney Elizabeth with Pierre-Francois Vilanoba. (Vilanoba, who joined the company in 1998, will retire at the end of the season.)

“Ibsen’s House,” set to Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Major, featured exceptional pianist Roy Bogas, violinists Krista Bennion Feeney and Anca Nicolau, violist David Cerruti and cellist Myron Lutzke.

The orchestra, conducted by Martin West, returned for Edwaard Liang’s “Symphonic Dances,” a reprise of last year’s premiere, set to Rachmaninoff’s music of the same name.

Mark Zappone’s colorful costumes and a wealth of talent served the lengthy piece well. Opening night featured principal dancers Sylve, Yuan Yuan Tan, Maria Kochetkova, Helimets, Vito Mazzeo and Luiz.

“Symphonic Dances” has improved greatly. While it seemed too episodic and flashy last season, it is a cohesive work today.

S.F. Ballet Program 6

  • Where: War Memorial Opera House, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
  • When: 8 p.m. Thursday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
  • Tickets: $20 to $325
  • Contact: (415) 865-2000,

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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