SAN FRANCISCO BALLET.SAN FRANCISCO BALLET San Francisco Ballet, or SFB, is a San Francisco, USA based ballet company, founded in 1933 as part of San Francisco Opera Ballet. The company is currently based in the War Memorial Opera House, where it is directed by Helgi Tomasson.
WAR MEMORIAL OPERA HOUSE SAN FRANCISCO APRIL April: see month. 8-18, 1999
Almost every ballet company in the world dances Giselle. Admittedly, there is the notable exception of New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. Ballet--although, after a full-evening Swan Lake, who knows whether a Giselle is not in that company's future. But apart from this holdout, the only other major classical troupe without a Giselle to its name was America's oldest ballet company, the sixty-six-year-old San Francisco Ballet. Even here there was apparently a single performance staged under its auspices by Anton Dolin in 1947, with Dolin and Alicia Markova as guest artists, and in 1975 Galina Panova and Valery Panov gave a number of performances with the company of the Act II Pas de Deux pas de deux
(French; “step for two”)
Dance for two performers. A characteristic part of classical ballet, it includes an adagio, or slow dance, by the ballerina and her partner; solo variations by the male dancer and then the ballerina; and a coda, or .
Nevertheless, Giselle has hardly loomed large in the company's history. Perhaps making up for lost time, SFB's new production, staged by artistic director Helgi Tomasson, must be one of the most elegantly ornate versions of the ballet anywhere. First seen April 8 at the War Memorial Opera House, it is said to have a price tag of $800,000--small change for Broadway, but enormously costly for ballet. This sumptuous production--from its minutely staged acting to its carefully detailed sets, costumes, and lighting by Danish designer Mikael Melbye--enables this Giselle to set a new benchmark for dedicated elaboration.
Tomasson--once a star of NYCB--had only rare opportunities to dance in Giselle, but I do recall him as an eloquent Albrecht in Paris with Paris Opera Ballet The Paris Opéra Ballet is the official ballet company of the Opéra national de Paris, otherwise known as the Palais Garnier, though known more popularly simply as the Paris Opéra. , and he also worked closely on the ballet with Dolin, one of the great Albrechts of the twentieth century, who personally coached him. It comes as little surprise, then, that his present production basically follows the version that stems from Marius Petipa's 1884 production in St. Petersburg of the 1841 original--staged in the Western world for the Diaghilev Ballet and by Anna Pavlova's company--or from the productions of Petipa's last regisseur ré·gis·seur
n. pl. re·gis·seurs
A stage director, especially of a ballet.
[French, from régir, régiss-, to direct, from Old French regir, from Latin , Nicholas Sergeyev.
Tomasson's staging has two major innovations--apart from ghost Wilis in the second act who actually fly, a neat touch redolent red·o·lent
1. Having or emitting fragrance; aromatic.
2. Suggestive; reminiscent: a campaign redolent of machine politics. of the age of the Romantic Ballet, and as I recall not used since the Royal Ballet attempted it in 1946. Tomasson makes the so-called Burgmuller Peasant Pas de Deux (it is to music by Friedrich Burgmuller but was interpolated interpolated /in·ter·po·lat·ed/ (in-ter´po-la?ted) inserted between other elements or parts. for the Paris premiere) in the first act into a pas de cinq for three women and two men; toward the end of that act he introduces a full-scale pas de deux (an adagio a·da·gio
adv. & adj. Music
In a slow tempo, usually considered to be slower than andante but faster than larghetto. Used chiefly as a direction.
n. pl. a·da·gios
1. and two variations, but no coda) for the doomed Giselle and her faithless lover, Albrecht.
Although I am assured that the music for this duet was discovered by San Francisco conductor Emil de Cou Emil de Cou is an American conductor who became associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra (John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts) in September 2003 and has been an active participant in a wide range of NSO performances and events since his debut at Wolf Trap in a Paris Opera version of the score dated 1854--and it sounds authentically in keeping with the original Adolphe Adam music--to my knowledge it has only been staged in this century in productions by Mary Skeaping and Alicia Alonso. Just as did the making of that Peasant Pas de Deux into a quintet, this new duet for Giselle and Albrecht adds to the dancing possibilities--especially for Albrecht, who normally has little to dance until the second act. On the debit side, while stylishly choreographed and pleasant, it holds up the ballet's action.
Other stagings have made that Peasant Pas de Deux into a pas de quatre pas de quat·re
n. pl. pas de quatre
A dance for four.
[French : pas, step + de, of, for + quatre, four.]
Noun 1. , notably Peter Wright's various versions for Britain's Royal Ballet. Here, Tomasson, has given each of the male dancers a solo, and has inserted a solo (to a Burgmuller piano piece called "Shepherd's Return," orchestrated by de Cou) for one of the three women.
Interestingly, in view of Tomasson's opening up of cuts in the score, he decided not to include the fugue fugue (fyg) [Ital.,=flight], in music, a form of composition in which the basic principle is imitative counterpoint of several voices. in Act II that is found in Adam's original score but is not nowadays customarily used, except in the productions by Skeaping and Alonso.
Tomasson's staging was carefully considered, showing coherent and expressive dramatic detailing, and the mime, often nontraditional in its realism, has rarely been better realized.
Melbye's settings wonderfully suggest the small German village in which the ballet is set as well as capture the Gothic spirit of the gloom-struck wood in the second act. The settings have been constructed in three dimensions rather than painted, and apparently the village and its castle were modeled on the real town of Thuringen mentioned in Theophile-Gautier's original libretto libretto (ləbrĕt`ō) [Ital.,=little book], the text of an opera or an oratorio. Although a play usually emphasizes an integrated plot, a libretto is most often a loose plot connecting a series of episodes. .
The one unfortunate aspect of the design is that it looks like a child's picture book--it lacks that painterly paint·er·ly
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a painter; artistic.
a. Having qualities unique to the art of painting.
b. quality of style that some artists, as various as Alexandre Benois and James Bailey, have brought to their designs. The elaborate Elizabethan-style court costumes in Act I look more suitable for a ball than for a hunt.
The company offered five Giselles and five Albrechts, of which I saw only the first two--Lucia Lacarra partnered by Yuri Possokhov, and Tina LeBlanc with Roman Rykine. The remarkably promising Lacarra proved slightly disappointing: her dancing was fuzzy in its technical outline while her acting seemed almost rudimentary. Possokhov danced well and, particularly from Giselle's mad scene onward, acted with nicely unbridled passion. With the other pair, it was LeBlanc's handsomely danced and deeply felt Giselle that made the deepest impression. Muriel Maffre and Sabina Allemann proved exceptional in the role of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis (sometimes spelled Myrta) is a character from the famous Romantic ballet, Giselle which premiered at the Theatre de l’Academie Royale de Musique in Paris, France. , with Maffre the more forceful and Allemann the more eloquent. I was also much taken with Damian Smith and Peter Brandenhoff, who both offered fiercely danced characterizations of Albrecht's rival, Hilarion, once a purely mimed role but nowadays upgraded for its dancing potential in Act II. At both performances, young Guennadi Nedviguine, the company's most interesting male dancer, was brilliant in Tomasson's new pas de cinq, and Gonzalo Garcia was also exciting, as was Kristin Long, in the same dance.
The whole company danced extraordinarily well; it was very different seeing it in its own freshly restored Opera House as opposed to the spartan conditions of New York's City Center.