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San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker on PBS Great Performances

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A press release from PBS:

Great Performances - "San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker"


Kristi Yamaguchi Hosts Lavish Holiday Treat

San Francisco Ballet makes the beloved Nutcracker its own, resetting it during the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exhibition and introducing Dance in America viewers to the dazzling Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan. Recorded last December by KQED Public Television to help commemorate the company’s 75th anniversary, the work is choreographed by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and features sets and costumes by, respectively, Michael Yeargan and Martin Pakledinaz, both repeat Tony Award-winning designers. “Striking, elegant and beautiful,” assessed The New York Times.

Introduced by Olympic champion figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, a native of the Bay Area and winner of this year’s Dancing with the Stars, the production premieres in high definition and 5.1 surround sound Wednesday, December 17 at 8 p.m. (ET) on GREAT PERFORMANCES on PBS (check local listings). San Francisco Ballet Music Director and Principal Conductor Martin West conducts Tchaikovsky’s sprightly score.

“I have grown up with this wonderful company,” says Yamaguchi. “It was with them that my mom, Carole, took me to my first Nutcracker. Pretty impressive for a little girl, with all that magic and sparkle, thrilling music and those costumes! I think that’s when I fell in love with performing. Next year, I’ll be taking my little girls, 5 and 3, to their first production.”

In addition to the Russian-trained Kochetkova, a recent recruit from English National Ballet, as the adult Clara and the athletic yet lyrical Armenian-born Karapetyan as her cavalier prince, the large cast includes Damian Smith as Uncle Drosselmeyer and Pierre-François Vilanoba and Yuan Yuan Tan as the Snow King and Snow Queen. Vanessa Zahorian is the Sugar Plum Fairy. Dance in America viewers will remember Yuan Yuan Tan for her stunning portrayal of Desdemona in Lar Lubovitch’s Othello from San Francisco Ballet (2002).

The ballet, which was first performed in Russia in 1892, holds a special significance for San Francisco Ballet, America’s oldest professional ballet company. It had its U.S. premiere there in 1944.

Tchaikovsky’s beguiling score is one of the most popular pieces of music ever written. Think “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Waltz of the Snowflakes.” Inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 story, The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, it was first proposed to Tchaikovsky by legendary choreographer Marius Petipa as a follow-up to Tchaikovsky’s other successful ballets at Russia’s famed Mariinsky Theatre: Swan Lake (1877) and The Sleeping Beauty (1890). The composer began work on it in 1891.

The work premiered at the Mariinsky in December of the following year, with choreography by Lev Ivanov, taking over for an indisposed Petipa. The ballet completed a double bill, appearing with Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta. Reviews were disappointing for both. While Tchaikovsky thought much of Iolanta, he felt the ballet score was not among his best work. Some 115 years, countless performances, and myriad LPs and CDs later, many would disagree.

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker was recorded on stage in performance at the War Memorial Opera House December 19 and 21, 2007. It is a co-production of San Francisco Ballet and KQED Public Television San Francisco, in association with Thirteen/WNET New York. Past co-productions of the triad include San Francisco Ballet’s The Tempest, A Song for Dead Warriors, Cinderella, and Lar Lubovitch’s Othello.

Matthew Diamond (Dance in America’s Emmy Award-winning Swan Lake with American Ballet Theatre; GREAT PERFORMANCES’ Crazy for You) directs; Judy Flannery (GREAT PERFORMANCES’ Emmy Award-winning A Streetcar Named Desire From the San Francisco Opera) produced. Michael Isip is Executive Producer for KQED.

An expanded version of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, featuring additional behind-the-scenes interviews with the production’s creators and a background piece on the 1915 World’s Fair, is available on DVD from Opus Arte/Naxos of America.

GREAT PERFORMANCES is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS.

Major corporate funding for this telecast was provided by First Republic Bank, a division of Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust, Co., FSB. Special funding for the telecast was provided by Jim and Cecilia Herbert & Family. Additional support was provided by The Flora Family Foundation and members of the San Francisco Ballet's 75th Anniversary Sponsors Council: major sponsors include the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, The Hellman Family, and Yurie and Carl Pascarella; with additional sponsors including Stuart Francis and Diana Stark; Stephen and Margaret Gill Family Foundation; Cecilia and Jim Herbert; George Frederick Jewett Foundation, Lucille Jewett, Trustee; Barbara Ravizza and John Osterweis; Kathleen Scutchfield; The Smelick Family; The Swanson Foundation; Ms. Susan A. Van Wagner; E.L. Wiegand Foundation; Diane B. Wilsey; and Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang.

Visit GREAT PERFORMANCES Online at pbs.org/gperf for additional information on this and other GREAT PERFORMANCES programs. The Web companion contains a wide variety of images, in-depth information about the programs and activities for teachers, including lesson plans, tips and resources.

Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer for GREAT PERFORMANCES; David Horn is Executive Producer.

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Helgi Tomasson.

This was shown in movie theaters last December, taped then as well. Unfortunately, in Canada is played directly against National Ballet of Canada's live "Nutcracker", and I don't think there were very few people there when I saw it.

I loved Maria Kochetkova.

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I see that here in New York at 10:00 pm, Ch. 13 is following SFB's Nutcracker with "The Nutcracker Story":

The beloved Tchaikovsky ballet The Nutcracker has become an essential part of a child's Christmas -- all over the world. THE NUTCRACKER STORY pays homage to this favorite musical fairy tale that has inspired artists over the decades, and examines why the ballet is still so important to us today.

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Boston PBS aired the "Nutcracker" last night, 12/17/08. It was lovely, but I did miss scenery. I sent the station an e-mail to thank them for (finally) airing a ballet and hoped that they would air more in 2009. I also asked why they stopped since there are quite a lot of us who love ballet.

I wonder if an e-mail "on-slaught" will do any good with PBS? Has anyone received respones from their local station regarding the airing of ballet, and if they have plans to show more programs? I am a great believer in sending letters, e-mails, calls, etc. - they do want our money! At least someone from PBS responds within 24-48 hours.

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I found the camera work was annoying. There were moments when I want to see something close up and the camera angle was way back. I suppose being deprived of what you focus on and not being able to look closely with opera glasses makes this very different from live. I notice videos of ballet often seem to have more close ups than what I recalled from the PBS production. Maybe it's the small screen things, since even with vids I am looking at them quite close on my "desk top" monitor.

Regardless, I preferred the NYCB staging which seemed less "stark".

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I'm watching it in Hi-Def, glorious production! Sander, I suspect a standard def telecast had to do a lot of "pan and Scanning" to fit the smaller screen.

Chereo is good, with subtle balanchine homages in it. Some pieces were a little too gymnastic, like the ribbon dancers. The company and principals certainly know how to pirouette! Sugar Plum did not move much on stage for a waltz. Waltz of the flowers ended asymmetrically. Blue Jenie/Arabian was wonderful and masculine. Mother Ginger had a "trained" circus bear, I expect the animal rights folks/PETA to ask it be removed. Russian had the bravura the Tch piece demands.

Sets Costume scenery and orchestra were spot-on brilliant. Bravo to all!

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