San Francisco Ballet is world renowned and synonymous with excellence. Helgi Thomasson has held the position of artistic director for San Francisco Ballet since 1985 and since then the ballet has evolved into an international company praised for its broad repertory, highly skilled dancers, and a vision that sets the standard for the international dance world.
It is the holiday event of the year, every year. It is the stuff that dreams are made of: “Nutcracker.” It is a cherished tradition within our culture for many families and with Thomasson’s staging, it is obvious why. As I arrived Tuesday night at one of the first family performances of the season, the audience scurried to their seats as the show was just about to commence.
As the curtain rose, the audience gazed upon a lavish set designed by Yale School of Drama professor, Michael Yeargan and dazzling costumes designed by Martin Pakledinaz. The stage was set to embark upon a magical journey. San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is indeed a production on a grand scale.
The symphony was conducted by Martin West who is acknowledged as one of the foremost conductors of ballet, garnering critical acclaim throughout the world; the result is something truly remarkable. This year's performances were filmed for broadcast next winter on PBS and a digicast of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's staging are to be screened in over 70 theaters in North America and Europe.
The performance commenced with the animated Ashley Wheater as “Uncle Drosselmeyer” in his toy store. From the Waltz of the Flowers to the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, as the evening ensued, each scene was more breathtaking than the last. The evening was all the more spectacular with the inclusion of Maria Kochetkova, a 23-year-old recruit from the English National Ballet. Her light-as-a-feather performance was met with “wows” from the audience; adults and children alike, in awe of her talent.
A major highlight of the evening was the Waltz of the Snowflakes in which the snow queen performed beautifully — a winter wonderland so exquisite — stunning the audience into silence as a flurry of snow flakes fell from above.
San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is one that you will not soon forget. It is evocative of William Christensen’s original production and yet with Yeargan’s new set, the production appeals to a new generation of “Nutcracker” enthusiasts. However, one thing is certain: San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is timeless, and will endure for many more years to come.
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