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 Post subject: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2001 6:30 pm 
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[img]../../../images/sfb-nutsnow.jpg[/img] <BR>Photo by Lloyd Englert <P>Muriel Maffre, Benjamin Pierce, Kristin Long, Joanna Berman and Cyril Pierre are cast for the opening night of San Francisco Ballet's <I>Nutcracker</I> on Tuesday, December 11th. For more casting info, click <A HREF="http://www.sfballet.org/performances/casting/" TARGET=_blank>here</A>.<P>Several dancers kicked off the <I>Nutcracker</I> season earlier however by visiting children at UCSF's Children's Hospital in <I>Nutcracker</I> costume, on their free day no less, while Evelyn Cisneros will host a <I>Nutcracker</I> themed Family Connections at the SF Public Library on Saturday, December 15th (415-557-4554).<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited December 08, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2001 12:16 pm 
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Previous threads on SFB's Nutcracker:<P>- <a href=../../../ubb/Forum4/HTML/000573.html target=_blank>SFB's Nutcracker 2000</a><P>- <a href=../../../ubb/Forum4/HTML/000028.html target=_blank>SFB's Nutcracker 1999</a>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2001 4:06 pm 
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Just saw Joanna Berman's Sugarplum. Beautiful. Exactly what I've been looking for in a Sugarplum all these years and was disappointed not to get.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2001 9:44 pm 
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LMCtech, you mean you saw Joanna Berman in rehearsal? Lucky you! The actual opening performance would just about have ended an hour or so ago. I would have gone but I had other commitments. I'll be going later in the month instead.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2001 12:08 pm 
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The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story on the young dancers who will be playing Clara and the prince.<BR>Here's the link: <A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/12/03/DD79938.DTL" TARGET=_blank>http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/12/03/DD79938.DTL</A>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2001 4:08 pm 
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Thanks, Crandc. You may also want to check out this thread:<P><a href=../../../ubb/Forum20/HTML/000021.html target=_blank>Nutcracker Children</a>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2001 8:19 am 
What were the characteristics you were looking for, LMCtech(in Sugarplum fairy)?-just curious.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2001 10:27 am 
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Musicality, elegance, musicality, command of the stage, musicality, clear technique without hardness, musicality.<P>Here's a review from the Chronicle.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>'Nutcracker' is the children's hour <BR>S.F. Ballet production works magic again<P>Octavio Roca, Chronicle Dance Critic<P>Every year at this time we can be assured that good will triumph over evil, beauty will overcome violence and laughter will banish tears. Magical mice will do battle with toy soldiers, flowers will come alive, coffee and tea will dance for us and the whole world will sway and fly to the music of Tchaikovsky. San Francisco Ballet's "Nutcracker" returned to the War Memorial Opera House, and it is time to smile.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/12/13/DD207550.DTL&type=performance" TARGET=_blank><B>more...</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2001 12:58 pm 
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And another from the Examiner.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Only a few flakes short of a storm<BR>By Rachel Howard<BR>Examiner Dance Critic<P> Some things everyone can count on during Christmas in America. A tree that will leave your carpet dusted with sticky pine needles come New Year. A line a dozen gift shoppers long at Macy's and not a single employee within 30 feet of the cash register.<P> And in nearly every city in every state across the nation, a "Nutcracker" that will delight children and adults alike.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://www.examiner.com/ex_files/default.jsp?story=X1213SFBNUTw" TARGET=_blank><B>more...</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2001 12:49 pm 
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San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco<BR>"The Nutcracker", Opening Night<BR>December 11, 2001<P>The holiday season got off to a delightfully snowy start last Tuesday with the San Francisco Ballet’s opening of "The Nutcracker" at the War Memorial Opera House. I admit that in all these years, and after seeing both provincial and national productions every single year from age five to age twenty, I had not been able to bring myself to see the San Francisco "Nutcracker", but it turned out to be my loss. Despite a few peculiar choreographic moments, it was overall a fanciful, enchanting, eye-filling production which featured some of San Francisco Ballet’s finest dancers, among them an elegant and icy Muriel Maffre as the Snow Queen and a radiant Joanna Berman as the Sugar Plum Fairy.<P>The current production, which debuted in 1986 seems visually and dramatically unified, although choreographically disjointed. Lew Christensen, SFB’s artistic director from 1952 to 1967, was in the process of revising SFB’s "Nutcracker" at the time of his death in 1984, and his work was completed by his brother Willam Christensen (who staged the first American production of the ballet in San Francisco in 1944) and Helgi Tomasson. The first act seems mainly to be of Willam Christensen’s devising, while Tomasson has made contributions into the divertissements of the second act that Lew Christensen had already begun. Unfortunately in many places the variation of styles does show and not always for the better.<P>Strange to say, but in some ways I enjoyed the first act more than the second. The notorious Party Scene, which in many productions is about as exciting as watching slush melt, was wonderfully staged here, with detailed storytelling and colorful, charming set and costume designs and a brisk tempo from the orchestra, led by Jean-Louis LeRoux. The 19th century German settings devised by Jose Varona were somewhat overwhelmingly pink, but still appropriate for the atmosphere of the ballet. From the opening scene in Herr Drosselmeyer’s workshop, through the trek in the falling snow into the Stahlbaums’s house, the design of the storyline took us through the music of the overture beautifully and expeditiously.<P>The children of the Party Scene, who study at the San Francisco Ballet School, acquitted themselves well, and Sean Orza as Drosselmeyer’s nephew was a perfect gentleman to Jenny Winton’s sweet Clara. A highlight to the act, though, was Amanda Schull‘s turn as the Dancing Doll, displaying the best work that I’ve yet seen from her. Her precise footwork and settled port de bras lent a neatness to the variation and showed off an improvement in her technique since last season.<P>All in all, the action moved along swiftly, from the famous "growing of the tree" scene to through the battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker. Though filled with highly entertaining details, the scenes never dwelt too long on them and before you knew it, you were at the stunningly beautiful transition into the Land of Snow, presided over by Muriel Maffre and Benjamin Pierce. It was a pleasure watching such a long and yet fleet-footed pair of dancers, and even with a gathering dust of snow coating the floor, they covered the space in broad elastic strokes that emphasized a certain grandness. <P>The second act, set in the Land of Sweets, is mainly an excuse for every conceivable type of variation in a kind of Candy Roll Call. Joanna Berman, as the Sugar Plum who rules this kingdom, was an amiable and warm presence as always, and worked hard to inject coherence and a bit of drama into the somewhat sketchily-defined role of Head Fairy. Among her subjects, the Spanish-flavored Chocolate variation was well-executed by the three couples, with Dalene Bramer standing out for an extra jolt of sexiness in her attitude. Julie Diana was as coolly appealing as ever in the Arabian Coffee role, although the choreography really doesn’t call for much except to move in an enticing manner. In the Russian Cossacks variation, Gonzalo Garcia stunned the audience before the music even started with a huge double saut de basque a la caractere onto stage before he and Pablo Piantino and James Sofranko performed one of the more crowd-pleasing pieces. Kristin Long flitted confidently through the role of the Butterfly in the Waltz of the Flowers, moving with such ease that the stage seemed almost too small for her.<P>Sadly, in the Grand Pas de Deux, which should have been the culmination and highlight of the entire act, Berman, partnered by Cyril Pierre, had the unenviable task of making some very peculiar choreography look good. Even with all the majesty they could muster they couldn’t hide the fact that the supported adagio seemed somehow to have been choreographed in such a way that they were always jammed up to one side of the stage, and that there were many long moments of what one might call "milling about". Pierre’s variation featured monotonous choreography and he seemed hard put not to make it look labored. It was difficult to tell if it appeared sloppy because his technique was suffering or if the steps were simply uninteresting. The worst moment, however, was seeing Berman, a famously musical dancer, slog through one of the most unmusical versions of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s variation that I have ever seen. The one momentary flash of insight came in her manege of turns near the end, which she phrased so that the chaines deboules perfectly reflected a musical descent from the oboe. <P>Nevertheless, Berman was Berman, and she always shines, as might be said of the whole company. In the end, her all-encompassing smile and the polish of the company members in a lovely setting were the memorable points.<P>Performances continue through December 30, 2001.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2001 4:00 pm 
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I have had the opportunity to see a few of SFB's Nutcrackers this season. My pocket is now very empty, but my mind, body and soul are filled with visions of great dancing, especially by the soloists and corps. This company sure has depth and range!<P>One of the stand-outs was Leslie Young as the Snow Queen. She was absolutely beautiful, with great poise, extension, and command of the stage. Plus, she smiled! What a glorious contrast to Muriel Maffre's Ice Queen interpretation. <P>Also, I had the opportunity to see Frances Chung as the Butterfly the other day. While she was tentative at times, I felt that she captured the essence of the Butterfly without appearing too harsh, as Kristin Long's Butterfly sometimes is. <P>While yes, the sets and costumes are showing age, I enjoyed SFB's Nutcracker tremendously and hope to attend again in the future.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2001 7:04 pm 
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Rubies, thanks so much for your impressions. I completely understand what you mean about Muriel... I wish I could have seen Leslie Young as the Snow Queen. I got her for Arabian again on the 21st. It seems that I always see her in Arabian.<P>My Snow Queen was Sherri LeBlanc, who was just perfect, with clean technique and the right expressions from beginning to end.<P>I got Kristin Long as Sugar Plum. I know what you mean about her being harsh, which she seems to be in this role. Interestingly in contrast to you, I prefer her pyrotechnics in Butterfly.<P>I felt Lorena Feijoo, one of my favorite SFB dancers, was "harsher" and more "forced" than Kristin in Butterfly. Superb technique but she's so very Russian...<P>As a side note, Stephen Legate's right knee bled through his tights at the end of the Sugar Plum-Cavalier pdd.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2002 11:07 am 
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I attended on Friday, December 21. The current production dates from 1986 and was in the process of revision at the time of Lew Christensen's untimely demise. Completion of the production was left in the hands of Willam Christensen and Helgi Tomasson. Act I is essentially the same version (by Willam Christensen) as the version performed by Ballet West. Act II is quite different and shows the imprint of Mr. Tomasson. A particularly unusual note is the use of authentic trepak choreography for the Russian Cossacks, set by Anatole Vilzak. Decor and costumes for this production are by Jose Varona; lighting by David Elliott.<P>SFB has had a number of productions since the Nutcracker was originally premiered in December 1944...then shelved until 1949. The 1944/49 production was by Willam Christensen. Following his departure for Utah in 1951, his youngest brother, Lew, created his own version in 1954 (with spare, cubist sets and costumes), followed by another in 1967 with less-abstract sets and costumes by Robert O'Hearn. As a side note, the "cubist" version was used by Pacific Northwest Ballet until the premiere of the current Maurice Sendak/Kent Stowell production in 1983. I regret the loss of the Ribbon Dance (replaced by the trepak) and the Chinese Dragon from these earlier productions.<P>War Memorial Opera House gleamed for the occasion. The snow flurries greeting the audience on the front steps were a deft touch. Applause to whomever added this element of fantasy.<P>In Act I, Jim Sohm was a benign and avuncular Drosselmeyer; Christopher Ouellette and Kianna Simensen were charming and musical as Clara and Fritz. Corps member Amanda Schull (cf., "Center Stage") was on view as a Maid (and later as a Snowflake and in Spanish Chocolate); former Seattleite (and Cornish School student) Kathleen Mitchell (now a member of the SFB School faculty) had a turn as the Grandmother. Corps member Elizabeth Miner (formerly of Miami City Ballet) displayed outstanding control and precision as the Dancing Doll. <P>One of my favorite big moments (and a key gauge of how favorably I am likely to respond to the overall production) is the Snow Scene, beginning with the adagio theme in the English Horn that serves as the bridge from the Battle Scene to the Snow Scene. The Christensen productions use a vaudeville-derived series of tricks with scrims, lighting and fog, out of which the Snow King and Queen emerge at the climax of the adagio. This entrance never fails to produce a thrilling gasp from the audience. Soloist Sherri LeBlanc and Corps Member Chidozie Nzerem were well partnered as the Snow Queen and King. The corps danced effectively in the main body of Snow and the tempo from the pit was a reasonable one, allowing for attention to detail that is too often blurred, smudged, or thrown away when the tempo is too fast. The recorded voices were a bit of a disappointment. Other companies (PNB, Ballet West) have live singers; whatever SFB's excuse, it is inadequate.<P>In Act II, I miss having the character work in Spanish performed in character shoes. Sadly, I find more companies succumbing to some element of pressure to put the character dances, including Spanish, on pointe. I think it is a mistake. Perhaps someone, in line with the quest for authenticity illustrated by the trepak (instead of the circus side-show), will return the character dances to character shoes. <P>I very much enjoyed this version's Waltz of the Flowers -- again, the moderate tempo enables the performers to concentrate on the small steps and other details of port de bras and epaulement that are so often lost at quicksilver tempos. Lorena Feijoo acquitted herself admirably as the Butterfly; the closing floral pose is among the most effective and satisfying of the versions currently being performed. <P>As for Kristin Long and Stephen Legate as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, I found Mr. Legate to be an excellent and attentive partner; Ms. Long to be technically assured. I never experienced a moment's discomfort that either of them were about to come to grief. It was surprising to see a blood-red stain emerge and enlarge on Mr. Legate's left knee by the conclusion of the coda. I hope that this was nothing more serious than popping a blister.<P>The SFB Orchestra, at this performance conducted sensitively and supportively by Scott Speck, was everything a Nutcracker orchestra should be.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker 2001
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2002 2:39 pm 
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I also got to see the 12/21 performance and just loved it! What a treat to see this production in such a magnificent setting. War Memorial Opera House provides not only elegance but amazing and welcome intimacy with what's going on stage, as all seats, relatively speaking, are very close to the stage.<P>My only beef was that I was shocked and a little surprised to see the condition of the gray "time-step?/Marley" floor on the stage. It looked ugly and was not representative of what I think shows off one of our major ballet companies. I might suggest that the production department look in to having a specially-designed and made floor for this Nutcracker. Something that other companies have done, so that the dancing floor does not seem out of place with the rest of the visuals.<P>San Francisco, you are lucky to have ballet on this scale! SFB is truly a North American treasure.<p>[This message has been edited by Dean Speer (edited January 31, 2002).]

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