Grace Kelly exhibition opens in the United States


The Grimaldi Forum’s Grace Kelly exhibition has just opened in the US
© G Barclay

Since opening in the Principality of Monaco in 2007, the Grimaldi Forum’s exhibition, The Grace Kelly Years, Princess of Monaco, has been enchanting visitors around the world.  Initially conceived and presented as one of the Forum’s headline summer exhibitions, this tribute to the legendary woman who moved so effortlessly and stylishly from a career in Hollywood to her role as beloved wife, mother and Princess of Monaco, has drawn crowds in every city in which it’s been seen.


A tribute to a legendary international icon
© G Barclay

In accordance with the wishes of HSH Prince Albert II, this exhibition has already been made accessible to over 700,000 people in nine different cities across the globe – in addition to the 135,000 who visited it in Monte-Carlo, a record number of visitors to a Grimaldi Forum exhibition.  It has now opened, for the first time, in the United States, and the venue, appropriately, is the Michener Museum near Philadelphia, the city in which Grace Kelly was born and which is her family’s home.


A collection of gowns worn by Princess Grace
© G Barclay

This fascinating collection of souvenirs, memorabilia, photographs, dresses, jewellery and home movies highlights the allure, style and elegance which became synonymous with the name of Grace Kelly, presenting aspects of her brief film career, yet maintaining a subtle awareness of her royal destiny.

In the opulence of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, the city’s Mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, paid tribute to Princess Grace of Monaco.  In Moscow, at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, the exhibition was officially inaugurated by HSH Princess Stéphanie, accompanied by founders Vladimir and Ekaterina Semenikhin, and in Rome, the Memmo Foundation invited HSH Prince Albert II to open the exhibition in the Palazzo Ruspoli.  In London, the presentation at the Victoria & Albert Museum placed the focus on fashion in an exhibition entitled Grace Kelly, Style Icon, which attracted the highest number of visitors to the exhibition to date.


Grace Kelly – actress and beloved wife, mother and Princess of Monaco
© G Barclay

The Armando Alvarez Penteado Foundation hosted the exhibition in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which was opened by HSH Prince Albert II, and in Toronto, during the city’s Film Festival, the TIFF Bell Lightbox honoured the actress who became Princess Grace of Monaco.  At the Bendigo Art Gallery, one of  Australia’s largest and oldest regional galleries, the exhibition was inaugurated by HSH Princess Charlene, attracting 153,000 visitors.  In Astana, it was hosted by Kazakhstan’s Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, and it made a second appearance in Canada, at the McCord Museum in Montreal.

From Philadelphia to Monaco: GRACE KELLY Beyond the Icon is on display at the James A Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, near Philadelphia, until 26th January 2014, after which it returns to Europe, to the Het Loo Palace in the Netherlands, where it will be open from 3rd June to 26th October 2014.

For further information on the exhibition, and a list of related events, please visit the Michener Museum website

Grimaldi Forum, Monaco

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BBC Symphony Orchestra – focus on France


The Labèque Sisters
© Umberto Nicoletti

Having recently returned from a tour to Asia, the BBC Symphony Orchestra resumes its 2013-14 season at the Barbican, a season which has more than a breath of French air about it – featuring, as it does, six French conductors, ten French soloists and music by 22 different French composers.

Marc MinkowskiPhoto: Marco Borggreve for Naive

Marc Minkowski
© Marco Borggreve for Naive

The first programme, on October 26th, was an all-French affair, led by Mark Minkowski, founder of Les Musiciens du Louvre, also Artistic Director-designate of Salzburg Mozartwoche, and Music Director of Sinfonia Varsovia. Marking 50 years since the death of Francis Poulenc, the programme included two of his works – his Figure humaine, a cantata for 12-voice a capella choir, and his Concerto for Two Pianos, which featured young French pianists David Kadouch and Guillaume Vincent.  Interestingly, the Figure humaine was written in Nazi-occupied France,  to the poems of Paul Éluard – in hiding because of his support for the Resistance.  Not only were the poems sent to Poulenc in secret, but the musical score had to be smuggled out of France for its first performance, which took place in London in March 1945.  The two works making up the rest of the programme were Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and Roussel’s Symphony No 3.


Sakari Oramo
© Heikki Tuuli and Octavia copy

On November 2nd, conductor Sakari Oramo makes his debut as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a programme which features the world premiere of French composer Tristan Murail’s Reflections/Reflets, a BBC co-commission. Murail is one of the principal founders and theoreticians of spectral music, a musical genre originating in France in the 1970s which makes use of sound – including the timbre, pitch, and rhythm of individual sounds – as a model for composition.  The programme also includes the Shostakovich Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra – in which pianist Olli Mustonen is joined by trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov – and the Symphony No 1 by Mahler.

Nora Gubisch and Alain Altinoglu

Mezzo-soprano Nora Gubisch
Courtesy BBC

Two works by Ravel are highlights of the concert on December 4th – his song cycle, Shéhérazade – set to three poems by Tristan Klingsor – which features French mezzo-soprano, Nora Gubisch, and his Pavane pour une infante défunte, one of his most popular pieces. Having once said that its title was meaningless, Ravel also commented that it is “an evocation of a pavane that a little princess might, in former, times, have danced at the Spanish court”.  This programme, led by Spanish conductor, Josep Pons, opens with Schreker’s overture Die Gezeichneten and includes Busoni’s Berceuse élégiaque and Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No 1.

Francois Xavier Roth Photo: Marco Borggreve

Francois-Xavier Roth
© Marco Borggreve

L’enfance du Christ by Berlioz is the featured work on 15th December.  François-Xavier Roth leads the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Chorus and the Trinity Laban Chamber Choir in this seasonal oratorio featuring Berlioz’s retelling of the Christmas story.  It was inspired, according to the composer, by “the illuminations of the old missals”.  The soloists are mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, Yann Beuron tenor, baritone Marcus Farnsworth, and Christopher Purves bass.  Principal Conductor of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, François-Xavier Roth also holds the position of Associate Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and regularly conducts the London Symphony Orchestra.


Semyon Bychkov
Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

The first French-inspired concert of 2014, on 16th January, features the Labèque sisters, Katia and Marielle.  Having appeared with many of the world’s leading conductors and at the most important international festivals, they have a repertoire which also includes jazz, ragtime, flamenco, baroque – on period instruments – and even pop and experimental rock.  Directed by Semyon Bychkov – who holds the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Günter Wand Conducting Chair – the concert features two works, both written during the Second World War, but each totally different from the other.  Katia and Marielle Labèque play the Martinů Concerto for Two Pianos, written during a highly productive time for the composer whilst he was in the United States, and the other work is the Shostakovich Symphony No 7 in C major, entitled Leningrad – in which the composer pays tribute to the defiance and courage of the Russian people.

The programme on 22nd January is the first of two in this series which pairs the music of Beethoven – on this occasion his Symphony No 7 – with recent French music.  Led by Israeli conductor, Ilan Volkov, the concert opens with Mégalithes, a work by Gérard Grisey, which involves 15 brass players, interestingly, being “scattered around the hall”. This is followed by the UK premiere of Hugues Dufourt’s Piano Concerto, with soloist Nicolas Hodges, and cummings ist der Dichter by Pierre Boulez, a setting of the poetry of E E Cummings for vocal ensemble and chamber orchestra, featuring the BBC Singers.


Lionel Bringuier
© Jonathan Grimbert Barré

The second of these concerts takes place on 29th January, in which Lionel Bringuier conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No 4 in a programme which also includes the UK premiere of a work by Gérard Pesson, his Ravel à son âme (Ravel ‘to his soul’) – in which Pesson pays homage to his predecessor.  This is followed by Marc-André Dalbavie’s Flute Concerto – with soloist Michael Cox – and Ravel’s enduringly popular Bolero.  Lionel Bringuier is regarded as one of the most exciting young conductors to emerge from France in recent years. Currently Music Director of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra, he was Resident Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the 2012-13 season.


Fabien Gabel
© Gaëtan-Bernard

On February 22nd, French pianist François-Frédéric Guy teams up with Armenian Varduhi Yeristyan for the UK premiere of the Concerto for Two Pianos dedicated to them by Bruno Mantovani – headmaster of the Paris Conservatory, from which illustrious institution, he, as a student, was the recipient of five first prizes.  In a concert conducted by Fabien Gabel, Music Director of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, the programme also features Chausson’s symphonic poem for orchestra, Soire de fête, Debussy’s Trois Nocturnes – an orchestral composition in three movements inspired by a series of Impressionist paintings – and Beethoven’s Symphony No 8.

French-born conductor, Sylvain Cambreling, leads the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 19th March, in a concert which opens with Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for violin, viola and orchestra, featuring two of Europe’s leading young string players, Veronika Eberle (violin) and Antoine Tamestit (viola).  This concerto is followed by Olivier Messiaen’s Éclairs sur l’Au-delàIlluminations From the Beyond – the composer’s last completed work.  Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for its 150th anniversary in 1992, the premiere was conducted by Zubin Mehta a matter of months after Messaien’s death.


Renaud Capuçon
© Mat Hennek

Sakari Oramo takes to the podium again on 3rd May, for a programme which is largely French in content, with the exception of the final work, Elgar’s Enigma Variations.  The concert opens with Debussy’s symphonic poem Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune – inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s 1876 poem – and the music on which Nijinsky based his provocative ballet.  Gifted French violinist Renaud Capuçon is the soloist in the UK premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s Violin Concerto, Aufgang, a work written by the contemporary French composer for Capuçon.  This is followed by Eric Honegger’s tone poem for orchestra, Rugby.  Written in 1928, it’s the second in a series of mouvements symphoniques – the first being Pacific 231, depicting a steam locomotive, and one of his best-known works.

Paul Dukas provides the French contribution for a very international concert on 9th May.  The programme opens with his symphonic poem, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Written in 1896-97  it was inspired by Goethe’s 1797 poem about a magician who leaves his apprentice in charge of his workshop.  This concert features another UK premiere (and a BBC commission) – the Violin Concerto by Chinese-American composer, conductor and pianist, Bright Sheng – with Gil Shaham as soloist.  The final work is Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.  Commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky, director of the Boston Symphony, it was premiered by the Symphony in December 1944.


Ludovic Morlot
© Sussie Ahlburg

The last concert of the season is also influenced by French music and artists, and takes place on 24th May.  Led by French conductor, Ludovic Morlot – Music Director of the Seattle Symphony and Chief Conductor at La Monnaie/De Munt opera house – the programme features Fauré’s Requiem and a concert staging of Poulenc’s light-hearted and rarely-performed opera, Les mamelles de Tirésias.  The much-loved Requiem by Gabriel Fauré is his choral-orchestral setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead, which was premiered in its first version at La Madeleine in Paris, in 1888.  Soprano Hélène Guilmette and baritone Jean-Francois Lapointe are joined by the BBC Symphony Chorus for this performance of one of Fauré’s best-known works, which was played at the composer’s own funeral.

For details of the complete BBC Symphony Orchestra 2013-14 season, please follow this link

Mark Minkowski 
Sakari Oramo
Tristan Murail  
Nora Gubisch
Josep Pons
Francois-Xavier Roth
Katia and Marielle Labèque 
Semyon Bychkov
Ilan Volkov
Lionel Bringuier
Fabien Gabel
Bruno Mantovani 
Sylvain Cambreling
Renaud Capuçon
Pascal Dusapin
Bright Sheng
Ludovic Morlot


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Two premieres from San Francisco’s LINES Ballet


LINES Ballet’s Yujin Kim
© RJ Muna

Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet has just opened its Fall Home Season in San Francisco, with two premieres – the first San Francisco performance of Writing Ground, created for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and the world premiere of a new work – Concerto for Two Violins – set to the music of J C Bach.

LINES Ballet is a highly unusual company in almost every sense.  There is no hierarchy amongst this small group of extraordinarily gifted dancers – each is a star, each interpreting King’s distinctive choreography in an individual yet totally complementary style.  Founder and master choreographer, Alonzo King, is as much a philosopher as a creative genius, possessing an artistic vision which continues to provide his dancers with a repertoire of unique and wonderfully innovative works.


Courtney Henry in ‘Writing Ground’
© RJ Muna

Writing Ground was commissioned by Jean-Christophe Maillot, Artistic Director of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, in 2010, the year in which the ballet had its world premiere in Monaco.  Alonzo King drew his inspiration for the work from the writings of Colum McCann, Irish-born American author of international acclaim, and recipient of a number of honours, including the 2009 National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin.

Setting his ballet to a collection of sacred early music from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist  faiths, King says that he was led to use the sacred music of these different cultures because “Colum’s words made me think of the endless trillions of thoughts that proceed from humanity in our unanimous quest to avoid suffering, and attain some ever interesting joy, and how ultimately those words become sacred texts which design our lives”.


LINES dancer, Michael Montgomery, demonstrating the extraordinary creativity for which the Company is known
© RJ Muna

Always attracted by an intensely creative and highly unusual concept, King’s visionary choreography once again pushes the physical barriers for his uniquely talented dancers, to present a work which, according to the Huffington Post, “illustrates the power of Alonzo King’s story-telling at its height”.

Although Colum McCann had learned about the world of dance when writing his novel, Dancer – “a fictionalisation of the life of Rudolf Nureyev”, Writing Ground was his first opportunity to write for dance, “… like setting off on a whole new journey, casting off into uncharted territory,” he said at the time of the Monte-Carlo premiere.

Bach’s Double Violin Concerto sets the scene for the world premiere performance of LINES Ballet’s newest work.  With this concerto having previously provided the inspiration for choreographers such as George Balanchine and Paul Taylor, King says that his challenge was to put LINES’ unique stamp on their interpretation of what is arguably one of the finest compositions from the late Baroque period.  It’s a challenge to which the Company rose admirably, with its customary minimalist design, allowing the focus to fall on King’s intriguing choreography and his dancers’ incredible capabilities.


From LINES Ballet’s collaboration with Edgar Meyer 2013
© RJ Muna

As if two premieres were not enough to celebrate, LINES Ballet’s new dance photography book has also just been published.  Designed by Company Co-Founder and Creative Director Robert Rosenwasser, the book includes text by Alonzo King, and features the exquisite photography of RJ Muna and Marty Sohl – including some images never before published.

LINES Ballet’s Fall Home Season runs from October 25 – November 3, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Lam Research Theater, San Francisco.

LINES Ballet 

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo

Jean-Christophe Maillot 

Colum McCann


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Minghella’s ‘Madam Butterfly’ returns to English National Opera


English National Opera’s ‘Madam Butterfly’ returns to the London Coliseum
© Clive Barda

Anthony Minghella’s sublime production of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly returns to the London Coliseum this month – its fifth revival since it was first presented by English National Opera in London in 2005.  A co-production with the Metropolitan Opera New York and the Lithuanian National Opera, Madam Butterfly launched the artistic relationship between ENO and the Met, and following its London premiere, it subsequently opened at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vilnius in March 2006, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in September 2006.


‘Madam Butterfly’ is a co-production between ENO, the Metropolitan Opera and the Lithuanian National Opera
© Clive Barda

Madam Butterfly – Minghella’s Olivier Award-winning opera debut – was described by The Times as “one of the most deeply thoughtful and ravishingly beautiful re-creations of Puccini’s opera that you’re ever likely to see”, and hailed by The Sunday Telegraph as “the most beautiful show of the year in operatic London”.  It was the only opera directed by British film director, playwright and screenwriter, the late Anthony Minghella, and his wife Carolyn Choa – choreographer and associate director of the production.  Minghella’s other accolades include an Academy Award for Best Director for The English Patient in 1996. The film also won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the BAFTA Award for Best Film and Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.  Mr Minghella also won a BAFTA for The Talented Mr Ripley.

1-Madam-Butterfly,-Mary-Plazas,-Gwyn-Hughes Jones-(c)-Clive-Barda

Mary Plazas (Butterfly) and Gwyn Hughes Jones (Pinkerton)
© Clive Barda

Puccini’s tragic love story about a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval officer posted in Japan, is one of opera’s most heartwrenching tales of unrequited love.  Based partly on the 1898 novel by John Luther Long, it was also the inspiration for Schönberg and Boublil’s spectacularly successful 1989 musical Miss Saigon which returns to the West End next year.

Puccini originally wrote Madam Butterfly in two acts, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa.  It premiered at La Scala, Milan, on February 17th, 1904, but wasn’t well received, so Puccini made some changes – which included dividing the second act into two.  The revised version, performed in Brescia on May 28th, 1904, was a resounding success.


Mary Plazas as Butterfly and Pamela Helen Stephen as Kate Pinkerton
© Clive Barda

The current ENO production features debut performances by Russian-American soprano Dina Kuznetsova – known for her outstanding musicianship and  compelling stage presence – as Cio-Cio San, and Timothy Richards – recognised as one of Europe’s leading tenors – as F B Pinkerton.  The lead roles will be shared by Mary Plazas and Gwyn Hughes Jones.  The role of Kate Pinkerton will be sung by Catherine Young, and that of Sharpless by George von Bergen – both ENO Harewood artists.  Pamela Helen Stephen appears as Suzuki, Alun Rhys-Jenkins as Goro, Mark Richardson as The Bonze and Alexander Robin Baker as Prince Yamadori.

Conductor Gianluca Marcianò also makes his ENO debut appearance with Butterfly.  Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Tbilisi State Opera & Ballet Theatre in Georgia, Mr Marcianò is also Artistic Director of the Al Bustan Festival in Beirut, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Beijing Drama, Dance and Opera Orchestra.

1-Madam-Butterfly,-Gwyn-Hughes Jones,-Mary-Plazas,-3-(c)-Clive-Barda

Gwyn Hughes-Jones and Mary Plazas
© Clive Barda

The production will be directed by Sarah Tipple who returns to ENO to direct Madam Butterfly for the second time, having directed the May 2012 revival production in London.  Ms Tipple’s most recent success has been the UK and South African tour of the musical Dirty Dancing.  She directed the acclaimed production Barbershopera in 2008, and in 2009 was shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Fellowship in Theatre for Directing.  During 2008-9 Sarah Tipple completed a year-long residency at the Young Vic.

ENO’s Madam Butterfly will feature the original creative team – set designer Michael Levine, costume designer Han Feng, award-winning lighting designer Peter Mumford and puppetry by Blind Summit.  Anita Griffin is the revival choreographer.

Madam Butterfly runs at the London Coliseum for 14 performances, between October 14th until December 1st.  For further information on performances and tickets, please visit the ENO website.

Anthony Minghella

Dina Kuznetsova 

Timothy Richards 

Gianluca Marciano

History of the ENO 

History of the Coliseum


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New York premiere for San Francisco Ballet’s ‘Cinderella’


Cinderella arrives at the ball – San Francisco Ballet’s Maria Kochetkova
© Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s New York season continues on October 23 with a premiere performance for the city – Christopher Wheeldon’s highly creative production of Cinderella which played to sold-out houses when it opened in San Francisco earlier this year.

A co-production with Dutch National Ballet, this presentation of Cinderella – set to Prokofiev’s glorious score – takes its inspiration from the works of the Brothers Grimm as well as from the Charles Perrault adaptation of the folk tale.  Add to this the Wheeldon touch, a highly imaginative creative team, and you have a unique and enchanting production which had its world premiere in Amsterdam on December 13, 2012.

Cinderella is Christopher Wheeldon’s eighth commission for San Francisco Ballet, but his first full-length work for the Company.  One of today’s most sought-after choreographers, he started his dancing career with The Royal Ballet where his talent for choreography was recognized by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, who advised him to “take every opportunity you have to practice it”.   Following a move to New York City Ballet, Wheeldon finally retired from dancing in 2000 to concentrate on choreography, becoming resident choreographer of the New York company from 2001 to 2008.  He is now Artistic Director of his own company, and also an Artistic Associate at The Royal Ballet.

Around the time that Helgi Tomasson – SF Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer – was discussing the commissioning of Cinderella with Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet had also approached him for a full-length work, so Wheeldon decided on a co-production – not an easy route, but as he said at the time “I’ll do some of it here and some of it there, and we’ll make it work”.  This involved an exchange of principal dancers from the two companies in the months preceding the premiere, enabling him to create on both at the same time, an exercise which he describes as promoting “an exciting cultural exchange”.


San Francisco Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Cinderella’
© Erik Tomasson

Wheeldon – who regards the Grimm version of Cinderella as “more serious and a bit darker” than Perrault’s –  presents a very different version than that to which audiences are accustomed.  There is no fairy godmother, no pumpkin coach and no clock striking midnight, but it has a living and dancing tree which grows from the grave of Cinderella’s mother, and to which Wheeldon refers as “the deliverer of all things magic” – which he thinks is “quite beautiful” and also “more poetic” than the traditional fairy godmother.  For Cinderella’s guidance and protection, Wheeldon has given her four spirits – the seasonal fairies in Prokofiev’s score – who also bestow on her gifts such as elegance and lightness of being, the steps she learns from them forming the basis of her solo at the Prince’s ball.

Although Wheeldon’s aim was to “echo some of the darkness in the music by taking some of the themes from the Brothers Grimm version”, he has retained the comedy which characterizes the traditional versions, because, he says, “there’s comedy written into the music”.  He does, however, consider it a more serious Cinderella, and “a very rich theatrical experience”.


San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s ‘Cinderella’
© Erik Tomasson

Wheeldon’s highly imaginative creative team included playwright and librettist Craig Lucas, set and costume designer Julian Crouch, award-winning puppeteer Basil Twist – responsible for creating the “living” tree – and lighting specialist Natasha Katz who worked with Wheeldon on Continuum, a previous commission for San Francisco Ballet.


Maria Kochetkova as Cinderella and Joan Boada as her Prince
© Erik Tomasson

Prokofiev started writing the score for Cinderella in 1940.  It was initially intended for the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky), but had to be set aside for a couple of years during World War II.  On completion, the work was performed in November 1945 – by the Bolshoi Ballet.  Maria Kochetkova, a Principal Dancer of San Francisco Ballet, says that the beauty of the music is what made her long to dance the role of Cinderella, having first watched a video of the ballet when she was a student at the Bolshoi. “It was my dream to perform it,” she says, “and not because of the pas de deux or unusual costumes or story that I wanted to act.  It was because of the music.”Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada in Wheeldon’s ‘Cinderella’.

San Francisco Ballet’s Cinderella runs at the David H Koch Theater, Lincoln Center in New York from October 23 to 27.  For further information and tickets, please follow this link where you’ll also find some video clips of the New York season.


San Francisco Ballet

Christopher Wheeldon

Helgi Tomasson

Dutch National Ballet

Craig Lucas

Julian Crouch

Basil Twist

Natasha Katz

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San Francisco Ballet goes to New York


San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s ‘Trio’
© Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet heads for New York City this coming week, with a showcase of mixed-bill programs, followed by the New York premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s spectacularly successful production of Cinderella.

Founded in 1933, San Francisco Ballet is America’s oldest professional ballet company and one of the three largest in the United States.  Having performed the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, the Company can also add to its list of premieres the first 20th Century American production of Coppélia.  San Francisco Ballet has been under the direction of Helgi Tomasson since 1985, and regularly commissions new works by some of the world’s most creative choreographers – whether emerging talents or masters of their profession – to add to its diverse and sophisticated repertoire.

The mixed-bill programs, to be presented in New York from October 16 to 20, focus mainly on the works of contemporary choreographers, highlighting the versatility and flair for which this Company is known.


Vanessa Zahorian and Vitor Luiz in Tomasson’s ‘Trio’
© Erik Tomasson

Helgi Tomasson’s Trio draws on the rich and dramatic melodies of Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous Souvenir de Florence, creating a series of what Tomasson refers to as “images or remembrances” – souvenirs, in effect, of three different episodes.  A work which captures the vivacity and emotion of Tchaikovsky’s music, it’s a sumptuous offering, both visually and choreographically.


Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Wheeldon’s ‘Ghosts’
© Erik Tomasson

Ghosts, a Christopher Wheeldon ballet, takes its title from the score composed by C  F Kip Winger, and represents a mass gathering of souls, to create an atmosphere “…. more like perfume than a heavy sort of ghost story,” says Wheeldon. “You’re not quite sure where you are or whether these people are real.  Are they characters or are they not?”


San Francisco Ballet in McGregor’s ‘Borderlands’
© Erik Tomasson

Wayne McGregor’s Borderlands is based on the concept of dancers embodying paintings – with the work of German-American artist Josef Albers influencing the connection which McGregor makes between dance and fine art.  He refers to the electronic score – created by British composer Joel Cadbury, in collaboration with Paul Stoney – as “sonic architecture” and “very analogous to the conceptual idea I had.”


San Francisco Ballet in Ratmansky’s ‘From Foreign Lands’
© Erik Tomasson

From Foreign Lands, a ballet by Alexei Ratmansky, is set to Moritz Moszkowski’s eminently danceable Suite for Orchestra of the same name.  Incorporating influences from Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland and Hungary, Ratmansky delivers what’s described as an uplifting creation, “high energy, playful and showy”.  Known for the fresh and youthful style of his work, Ratmansky – currently Choreographer in Residence at American Ballet Theatre – nevertheless retains a sense of honor for the traditions and culture of ballet.


San Francisco Ballet in Morris’ ‘Beaux’
© Erik Tomasson

Mark Morris’ Beaux is an unusual ballet in many senses.  With its striking costumes, backdrop by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahy, and a score by Bohuslav Martinů – which features the revival harpsichord – the work has been created for an all-male cast, and is “not just about what men are compelled to do in the ballet industry,” says Morris.  Aiming for a wider range of dancing, he describes his work as “difficult and virtuosic in a way that isn’t exploding in midair”.


Maria Kochetkova and Hansuke Yamamoto in Possokhov’s ‘Classical Symphony’
© Erik Tomasson

Classical Symphony, by the Company’s Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov, is dedicated “to my school, to my teacher, my background” – the teacher in question being Peter Pestov, the “most beloved and respected” of his teachers at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.  It was Pestov who introduced Possokhov to Prokofiev’s Symphony No 1 – the Classical – so not only is the ballet a tribute to Possokhov’s former ballet master, but it contains a number of personal links to Peter Pestov as well.


San Francisco Ballet in Edwaard Liang’s ‘Symphonic Dances’
© Erik Tomasson

Choreographer Edwaard Liang chose Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances for his first work for San Francisco Ballet.  The score, he feels, is intensely spiritual, and his ballet portrays “a spiritual, abstract world, what you would call the in-between, where it’s neither this world nor the next”.  Because this 2012 commission was specifically tailored to San Francisco Ballet, Liang felt that this music, “although intimidating”, was perfect.  “It’s a huge orchestration, really just big, bold music, and that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to it.”


San Francisco Ballet in Serge Lifar’s ‘Suite en Blanc’
© Erik Tomasson

Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc is a series of divertissements set to excerpts from Lalo’s 1882 ballet Namouna.  With its crisp, sparkling choreography and obvious sense of fun, this work has an air of Balanchine about it – hardly surprising since Lifar had created the title roles in Balanchine’s Apollon Musagète in 1928 and The Prodigal Son in 1929, as a premier danseur for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.  Suite en Blanc was written in 1943, when Lifar was with the Paris Opera Ballet, and is rarely performed in the United States – a situation which might well change following San Francisco Ballet’s successful revival earlier this year.

San Francisco Ballet’s Mixed Bill Programs will run at the David H Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, New York, from October 16 to 20.  For further information and tickets, please follow this link where you’ll also find video clips of the New York season.

A preview of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella will shortly appear on this site.

San Francisco Ballet 

Helgi Tomasson

Christopher Wheeldon

Wayne McGregor 

Alexei Ratmansky

Mark Morris

Yuri Possokhov  

Edwaard Liang

Serge Lifar  

George Balanchine

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