San Francisco Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ goes online

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Good news from San Francisco Ballet! The Company’s annual production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker will be streamed online from November 27th to December 31st, and not only will Bay Area audiences be able to enjoy it, but audiences from around the world will also be able to buy tickets to see this deservedly popular production.

Among highlights of this interactive virtual experience will be a tour of San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, and the opportunity to enjoy historical highlights of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, a staging unique to the Company.

Virtual War Memorial Opera House dressed for Nutcracker Online /// © San Francisco Ballet

What makes this particular staging unique to San Francisco Ballet? Well, for a start the story is unmistakably set in San Francisco, in the early part of the 20th century – a highly appropriate tribute to the city, since in 1944 San Francisco Ballet was the first American company to stage the ballet.

Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson was keen for San Francisco audiences to be able to identify with this production, and to make it as authentic as possible, set designer Mike Yeargan carried out some detailed research on the city after the 1906 earthquake. He was therefore able to recreate just the sort of home in which a family such as the Stahlbaums would live – both the exterior and interior – hence the Victorian steps leading to the front door, the windows lit by candlelight, and the wreath on the door. Even the drawing room – scene of the Christmas Eve party in Act 1 – was designed from photographs and books published during that time.

Virtual War Memorial Opera House dressed for Nutcracker Online /// © San Francisco Ballet

The party follows tradition, with its gaiety and festive fun, and the arrival of the magical toy- and clockmaker Uncle Drosselmeyer who presents Clara with her nutcracker doll – soon to be transformed into a handsome prince. This is followed by the midnight battle between the toy soldiers and a hoard of rats and mice, witnessed by Clara in her dreams.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson
San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Another notable difference in San Francisco Ballet’s version of Nutcracker comes with setting of the kingdom to which Clara and her Prince are transported. This kingdom was inspired by another important historical event in the history of San Francisco – the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, held to celebrate both the opening of the Panama Canal and the re-emergence of the city after the devastating earthquake. So, having traveled through the Land the Snow – a sequence regarded as one of the most spectacular anywhere – Clara and the Prince find themselves in the Crystal Palace, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy, and inhabited by dancing flowers, ladybugs, dragonflies and butterflies.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

The young couple are then entertained by dancers from some of the countries which were represented at the Exposition – fiery Spanish dancers from Madrid, the Arabian Genie accompanied by her two magicians, a Chinese dancer from the Chinatown district of San Francisco, three flirtatious French dancers from Paris with their can-can kicks and twirling ribbons, and the Russian dancers who burst onto the scene from giant Fabergé-style eggs. Madame du Cirque appears with her troop of little buffoons, and her furry friend, the cuddly brown bear makes an appearance too.

Clara – transformed into a beautiful Princess – dances a romantic pas de deux with her Prince, before waking from her fabulous dream, in her own bed, marveling at all she’s seen.

Yuan Yuan Tan in Tomasson’s Nutcracker // © Erik Tomasson

Choreography for San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker is by Helgi Tomasson, and Michael Yeargan’s beautiful sets are enhanced by the costume and lighting designs of the late Martin Pakledinaz and James Ingalls. The musicians of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra are led by Music Director and Principal Conductor Martin West.

Tickets for San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Online are on sale now. Online streaming will be available from noon (Pacific Time) on November 27th, until December 31st, and is best experienced on a computer, laptop or iPad.

For more details, please visit the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from San Francisco Ballet program notes.

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