San Francisco Ballet continues its 2022 season with contemporary updates of two classical ballets – a revival of Bournonville’s La Sylphide and the West Coast premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Seasons.
August Bournonville was a dancer and choreographer who directed the Royal Danish Ballet for nearly 50 years. He is regarded as having established the Danish style of ballet, and many of his works have remained in the repertoire of the Royal Danish company for over a century. He wrote La Sylphide in 1836, adapting the original French ballet, which was loosely based on a tale by French writer Charles Nodier, and choreographed in 1832 by Filppo Taglioni for his daughter Marie. Bournonville set his ballet to music by Norwegian composer Herman Severin Løvenskiold (1815 – 1870), who was just 19 at the time, and it premiered on 28th November, 1836, at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen. It’s one of the oldest ballets in existence and has the oldest Romantic ballet score still being performed today.
Set in Scotland in the 1800s – a time during which the country was regarded as an exotic, faraway land – La Sylphide opens on the morning of the wedding between James and his fiancée Effie. Relaxing in an armchair, James has his reverie disturbed by the presence of an ethereal and alluring sylph, which sets in train a series of events that leads to a trail of infatuation, betrayal and, finally, tragedy.
This production in two acts is staged by San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer, Helgi Tomasson, with Anita Paciotti and Katita Waldo. Scenic and costume designs are by Jose Varona.
Alexei Ratmansky’s association with San Francisco Ballet goes back to 2003, the year in which SF Ballet became the first US company to commission a ballet from him. The Seasons is both a celebration of Ratmansky’s decade as artist-in-residence at American Ballet Theatre as well as a tribute to Marius Petipa (1818-1910), one-time Premier Maître de Ballet of the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg and known as the “father of classical ballet”.
One of Ratmansky’s many reimaginings of the ballets of Petipa, The Seasons is the ninth of his works in the San Francisco Ballet repertoire. It has been set to the original – and lovely – score by Alexander Glazunov which was composed for Petipa in 1900, and – while the ballet dropped out of the Russian repertoire after a few years – the music became Glazunov’s best-known concert hall work, reflecting as it does the undoubted influence of Tchaikovsky. The ballet has no narrative, but each of the four scenes is symbolic of, and inspired by, a force of nature, providing endless opportunities for choreographic and design creativity.
Ratmansky’s The Seasons premiered in New York City in May of 2019 as a co-commission of San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.
Performances of La Sylphide and The Seasons run at the War Memorial Opera House until March 20th. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra is conducted by Music Director Martin West.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes
English National Ballet program notes