The San Francisco Ballet’s gala opening night featured breathtaking dance performances, with spectacular sets, lavish costumes, and Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. Helgi Tomasson’s production of The Sleeping Beauty highlights the San Francisco Ballet’s dancers’ classical virtuosity, casting its spell over a fairytale ballet of romance and wonder.
Artistic Director, and Principal Choreographer, Helgi Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty returned to the San Francisco Ballet on March 9, with performances through March 17 at SF War Memorial Opera House. Tomasson’s staging, which premiered with the Company in 1990, updates Marius Petipa’s original choreography from 1890, which debuted at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. Set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, The Sleeping Beauty is a pinnacle of classical repertory and not to be missed.
With 148 roles and participation of over 60 students from SF Ballet School across casts, The Sleeping Beauty is one of the largest productions of SF Ballet’s 2019 Repertory Season. Tomasson sets the fairytale in the 17th and 18th centuries in Russia, before and after the reign of Peter the Great. The sets and staging are really something special and highlight the dramatic changes in the story. The costume designs by Jens-Jacob Worsaae showcase the influence of Western culture on the Russian court, and costumes transform accordingly; white-dusted wigs and “Saxon and French” styles replace decadent, embroidered Imperial robes and regalia. The Sleeping Beauty’s lighting designer is Craig Miller who does splendid work showcasing the dancers with changes in lighting adding texture and emotion.
Carlo Di Lanno in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty. (© Erik Tomasson)
The ballet’s principal characters include the coveted role of Princess Aurora, after whose 100-year slumber the ballet is named, and her Prince Desiré. The story’s moral dichotomy rests between The Fairy of Darkness (a pantomime character, also known as Carabosse, or the Wicked Fairy Godmother) played by Wanting Zhao, and her counterpart, the benevolent Lilac Fairy, Jennifer Stahl. A bevy of fantastical characters and creatures join the cast, including Puss in Boots, The White Cat, The Enchanted Princess, Bluebird, fairies, and nymphs. The White Cat, with Elizabeth Powell, was a crowd favorite, exuding playful sensuality, along with The Enchanted Princess, Koto Ishihara, who especially glowed on the stage.
The Sleeping Beauty’s choreography exemplifies the grace and precision of classical ballet form. Aurora’s famous “Rose Adagio,” during the first act, requires the dancer to balance on pointe for an extended period while deciding among four potential suitors, each with rose in hand. Sasha De Sola’s precision and perfect positions during the Rose Adagio made the very difficult look effortless as her moves flowed across the stage. The kaleidoscopic Act I Garland Waltz is another highlight, as are the variations of the Fairies of Tenderness, Generosity, Serenity, Playfulness, and Courage in the Prologue.
I must also acknowledge what a pleasure it was to hear Tchaikovsky’s score played so richly with a live full orchestra, and conducted by Martin West.
The Sleeping Beauty tickets start at $50 and may be purchased via the Ticket Services Office at 415 865 2000, Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm or online at http://www.sfballet.org. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
Location: War Memorial Opera House San Francisco
Composer-Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Choreographer-Helgi Tomasson after Marius Petipa, Scenic and Costume Design:-Jens-Jacob Worsaae, Lighting Design-Craig Miller, Additional Coaching on this Production-Lola de Avila and Larisa Lezhnina.
Run time: 2 hours and 47 minutes with two intermissions (which goes by very quickly I must add.)
Opening Night Casting
Aurora: Sasha De Sola
Prince Desiré: Carlo Di Lanno
Lilac Fairy: Jennifer Stahl
Bluebird: Lonnie Weeks
Enchanted Princess: Koto Ishihara
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*Photos courtesy of San Francisco Ballet