Although San Francisco Ballet's sixth program got off to a shaky start in the War Memorial Opera House on Tuesday, the troupe’s star dancers quickly overcame the initial deficiency, and the mixed repertory evening proved delightful.
Yet the 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 wearing white uniforms and caps with feathers (by Barry Kay) – is entertaining, a balletic upgrade, of sorts, of a piece in an East 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 (who is retiring after the season ends).
“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 Rachmaninov'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 and Maria Kochetkova, Helimets, Vito Mazzeo and Vitor 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 Six
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 12 and April 18; 2 p.m. April 14, 2 and 8 p.m. April 20
Tickets: $20 to $325
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org