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SF Ballet “The Sleeping Beauty”

“The Sleeping Beauty” at SF Ballet

Carol Benet

Again this year the SF Ballet presents one of its favorite ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty” with the choreography by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson after Marius Petipa’s version that debuted in St. Petersburg in 1890.

Tomasson has taken the liberty of having 148 roles including over 60 young students from his SF Ballet School tell  the basic story.  He also adds characters from familiar fairy tales such as “Puss in Boots” and “Bluebird” among others. The full SF Ballet company participates giving the younger members experience on stage.  So demanding are the principle parts that they are rotated during the many performances through March 17, 2019.

“The Sleeping Beauty” is one of the SF Ballet’s most rigorous ballets and one of its success stories that along with its annual “The Nutcracker” bring in audiences consisting of the whole family and particularly the very young members who are often decked out in their fancy dresses and and gold or silver shoes.

“The Sleeping Beauty” is pure spectacular.  It is so much preparation work for the Ballet that my own piano teacher, Nina Pinzarrone, accompanist for the ballet, said she is just exhausted from the rehearsals. From the moment that the ballet begins, the set and costumes created by Jens-Jacob Worse and renewed last year set this in Russia during the time of one of the Tzars when the palace interior is decorated with sumptuous oriental rugs and tapestries and the courtiers dressed in elaborate rich gowns and capes.  The stage is recreated to look like it was in the Mariinsky Theatre of the end of the 19th century with the stage surrounded by gilded carving.  This is a stage within a stage construction that adds to the splendor.

The music by Tchaikovsky performed by the able SF Ballet Orchestra under the baton of Ming Luke,  is timeless and so is the story.  At the Christening of the Princess (Mathilde Froustey),  The Fairy of Darkness (Jennnifer Stahl) is so angry at not being invited that her gift to the Princess is a curse.  The good Lilac Fairy (Wanting Zhao) promises that the princess will not die but will fall asleep for many years only to be awakened if the Prince kisses her. This is the setting for the Prologue.

Act I takes place 16 years later on the birthday of the Princess.  Four suitors have come to ask for her hand and there is much merriment until an old woman comes with the gift of a spindle.  Watch out for those spindles!.  The Princess plays with it until it pricks her and she falls into a coma and the deep sleep. In an act of kindness, to ameliorate the woeful situation, The Lilac Fairy puts the whole kingdom to sleep.

Act Two is one hundred years later.  The young young Prince (Vitor Luiz) is at the hunt and despite the flirtatious of the women who invite him to dance with them,  he is lonely and unhappy.  The Lilac Fairy guides him through t in the forest to Sleeping Beauty and with his kiss she awakens and so does the town as Craig Miller’s lighting bathes the once dreary and dark scene.

Act There is the joyous wedding with a series of dances, ensembles, duets and solos that are splendid.  It starts with the Polonaise Couples (18 dancers) performing a traditional dance in their beautiful  traditional light colored costumes.  A parade of wedding guests come down the elegant carved staircase and take turns performing spectacular dances.  One is particularly amusing when The White Cat (Thamires Chuvas) dances with Puss in Boots (Alexander Reneff-Olson) in adorable catlike gestures.  Various fairies, cavaliers and final the happy bridal couple take turns dancing until the grand finale  when the entire cast performs together highlighted by the phenomenal love pair,  Frostey and Luiz.

If someone in your family has not seen a real ballet, the San Francisco Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty” would be an excellent way to introduce them to this art form.  Our ballet is one of the best in the country and we are very lucky to have it here.

Tickets 415 865 2000 or sfballet.org.

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