San Francisco Ballet's new revival of Helgi Tomasson's classical and restrained 1994 "Romeo and Juliet" is fresh and vivid, even to fans who are familiar with the often-presented piece.
Through the years, performances of the full-length dance have picked up speed, cohesion and passion. On Tuesday’s opening night at the War Memorial Opera House, dancers in the title roles set the pace, complemented by a wonderful group of soloists and the outstanding corps de ballet.
Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada have joined the group of memorable pairs of lovers in a long line of Opera House sensations. Together and apart, they were Romeo and Juliet, from the initial infatuation to the final, fatal conclusion.
It would be natural for Kochetkova – with her small face, big eyes, unusual jaw line and improbably lithe figure – to dance a lyrical Juliet, but she went far beyond that. Strength, speed and power that seems to appear from nowhere propel her through dramatic scenes. Every aspect of the character came to life.
Boada – always an appealing, elegant dancer – also poured on the drama and physicality, performing lifts better and more effortlessly than ever.
Equally impressive were Gennadi Nedgivin's quicksilver Mercutio, Daniel Deivison's scary Tybalt, Jaime Garcia Castilla's athletic Benvolio, and Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun's charming Rosaline.
Acrobats Dores Andre, Benjamin Stewart and Matthew Stewart, Harlots Courtney Elizabeth and Shannon Robert, and the corps as citizens of Verona rounded out the cast.
It was delightful to see leading dancers of past years in character roles: Val Caniparoli as Lord Capulet, Anita Paciotti as the Nurse, Jim Sohm as Lord Montague and Ricardo Bustamante as Friar Laurence among them.
The dancers’ experience was illustrated by pauses and effective moments of hesitation in such key scenes as the balcony pas de deux. Under Tomasson's direction, they seemed to breathe, rather than rush, the movement.
The production's only weakness was apparent in a few slow spots in the third act, which, with its static tragedy, is always difficult.
Jens-Jacob Worsaae's picturesque sets and opulent costumes contributed greatly to an exceptional evening, as did conductor Martin West and the orchestra, whose performance of the Prokofiev score recovered from early brass problems and finished with a flourish.
Appearing in the title roles in remaining performances:
Thursday: Vito Mazzeo, Yuan Yuan Tan
Friday: Pierre-François Vilanoba, Sarah Van Patten
Saturday evening: Davit Karapetyan, Vanessa Zahorian
Saturday matinee: Boada, Kochetkova
Sunday matinee: Mazzeo, Tan
IF YOU GO
Romeo and Juliet
Presented by San Francisco Ballet
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $48 to $245
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org