San Francisco Sentinel by Seán Martinfield
San Francisco Ballet’s PROGRAM 6 carries the music of Mozart, Arnold Schoënberg, and Leonid Desyatnikov. The first ballet, Haffner Symphony, choreographed by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson in 1991, is set to Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D major. The look and style is pure classicism, the mood is elegant and festive. Tomasson matches the phrasing of the buoyant score with perfect lyrical physicality, offering virtuosic opportunities throughout each of its four movements. Scenic designs and costumes by Tony Award winning Santo Loquazto reflect the elements of classical story ballets. The original lighting scheme by Thomas R. Skelton maintains its jewel-like appeal and airy freshness.
The second presentation marks the world premiere of Underskin. Set to the music of Schoënberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4, choreographer Renato Zanella admits he had the women of SF Ballet in mind during its creation. The roster of principals for the Opening Night performance included Sofiane Sylve, Frances Chung, Lorena Feijóo, and – in her final season – Katita Waldo. The subject deals with the finding of one’s self and is set in the abstract notions of a journey “into the woods”. The tensions vary from real to surreal and are colored by the energy of love, loneliness and the erotic. Conductor Martin West led the SF Ballet Orchestra in a superb rendition of the Schoënberg score. Costume designs by Anne Marie Legenstein exalt the magnificent dancers of SF Ballet. As Cole Porter would put it, “I’ve got you under my skin.”
Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons had its San Francisco premier last season. Its dozen overlapping scenes peruse the four seasons and the atmospheres of the Orthodox liturgical calendar. Ratmansky gives his dancers light touches of humor and playfulness in contrast to the songs and violin passages that explore heavier emotions of regret and melancholy. Susannah Poretsky’s rich mezzo-soprano was the perfect compliment to the songs of Schoënberg. Violinist Franklyn D’Antonio provided the sunshine and shade to a score that borrows upon traditional Russian folk music with themes of love and death. The ballet is packed with an amazing number of the Company’s principal dancers and soloists.