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2017 Season - Swan Lake

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Casting is up for the opening weekend (just Odette/Odile and Siegfried, no Von Rothbart):  https://www.sfballet.org/season/casting 

 

PROGRAM 06 - SWAN LAKE


Friday, March 31, 2017 - 8 pm

Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson
Conductor: Martin West

Odette/Odile: Maria Kochetkova
Siegfried: Joseph Walsh*^

 

Saturday, April 1, 2017 - 2 pm

Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson
Conductor: David LaMarche

Odette/Odile: Sofiane Sylve
Siegfried: Carlo Di Lanno

 

Saturday, April 1, 2017 - 8 pm

Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson
Conductor: David LaMarche

Odette/Odile: Yuan Yuan Tan
Siegfried: Tiit Helimets

 

Sunday, April 2, 2017 - 2 pm

Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson
Conductor: Martin West

Odette/Odile: Frances Chung*
Siegfried: Vitor Luiz

 

*Denotes premiere in role for current production.

^Denotes premiere in current production.

Program Notes

View Trailer

 

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Casting for the rest of the Swan Lake run has been posted (https://www.sfballet.org/season/casting):

Note that the last performance will be Vanessa & Davit's farewell performance on Saturday 4/15 at 7:00 PM.  Von Rothbart casting still not posted.

 

Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 7:30 pm

Odette/Odile: Yuan Yuan Tan
Siegfried: Tiit Helimets

 

Friday, April 7, 2017 - 8 pm

Odette/Odile: Maria Kochetkova
Siegfried: Joseph Walsh

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 7:30 pm

Odette/Odile: Sofiane Sylve
Siegfried: Carlo Di Lanno

 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 7:30 pm

Odette/Odile: Frances Chung
Siegfried: Vitor Luiz
 

Farewell Performance
Saturday, April 15, 2017 - 7 pm

Full performance of Swan Lake with a video tribute
to Principal Dancers Vanessa Zahorian & Davit Karapetyan

Odette/Odile: Vanessa Zahorian
Siegfried: Davit Karapetyan

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Wow, I didn't realize Vanessa and Davit were doing Swan Lake for their farewell performance. Had assumed it would be a mixed bill, like Program 7 on the night before. So, so sorry to miss it. Who would have thought, at the beginning of the season, that I very well might not watch Karapetyan perform again? But it's sure looking that way. Boo hoo!

 

But on the positive side, I get to see opening night's Masha & Joseph W. That'll be a lot of fun. 

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And it looks like castings for Von Rothbarts are appearing, at least for the first few performances:

 

Opening night: Daniel Deivison-Oliveira

Sat Apr 1, 2p and 8p: Alexander Reneff-Olson (busy day for him...)

Sun Apr 2, 2p: Von Rothbart: Sean Orza*

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Here's the official statement on Vanessa and Davit -

 

"Farewell Performance for Principal Dancers Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian:
The April 15, 7 pm performance of Swan Lake will be a special Farewell Performance for Principal Dancers (and married couple) Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian, who will dance the leading roles. Added to the program will be a video tribute to both dancers."

 

Interesting that Von Rothbart will be a young man - they're not casting the principal characters for this, so far.

Edited by pherank

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I did; I saw opening night. I thought Joseph and Masha worked well together, not so much because they had a "wow!" chemistry like I remember seeing last year with Carlo Di Lanno and Sofiane Sylve, but because they are both really good, versatile dancers who seem to rise to the challenge of every role. As Odile, Masha was particularly astonishing. No surprise, huh? As Odette she delivered a nuanced performance, but in the end, she's petite and can't produce that long-legged/limbed/necked image we see on YY or Sofiane. That said, I think she did her opening night lead role justice, and the Act IV was really touching. I found Walsh to be at his most convincing in Act IV as well. The usual visual treats: the corps swans were spot-on all night; not one single complaint anywhere there. The scenery has its usual distractions that I've grown to accept. The foreign princesses all had good runs. A few little mishaps here and there - a dropped fan, a hand reaching down for support by Greco at the end of a really brilliant solo in the Act I pas de trois. (LOL - spell-check tried to change it to "pas de trots"!) Sasha de Sola and Dores André were both in fine form, in the pas de trois and as Russian Princesses - but I think the headdresses in the latter are horrible. (As I find the swan feather caps, as well). Jahna Frantziskonis (sp?) and Esteban Hernandez were quite good in Neapolitan, and Jen Stahl is an amazing Spanish princess. The music, like always, was incredible, every bit as good as what you'd hear across the street at the SFS. Oh, and Daniel D.O. was a good, creepy Von Rothbart.

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Oh, and I forgot Rebecca Rhodes as the Czardas (sp?) princess. She always has such a lovely smile, on top of lovely dancing.

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Yeah Terez! Thanks very much for this report. Frantziskonis and Czardas (or Csardas) are correct spellings.

 

I'm past faulting Masha, or anyone else, for their nature-given build. That's life. One definitely has a preference for a particular look in a particular role or ballet, but there's not much benefit to belaboring the point. The biggest heroes always end up being the people who overcome all the "supposed to be like this" scenarios, and make their own way in life. There's a number of heroes in this company, and we're lucky to have them.

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Erik Tomasson photo from (presumably) the dress rehearsal of Kochetkova and Walsh

 

17662289_1877448845802808_41247143843646

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Wow, fantastic photo! (And, oh, how I still [childishly] hate those feather caps.) Joe was a fabulous looking Siegfried - straight out of central casting. ; )

Edited by Terez

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3 hours ago, Terez said:

 (And, oh, how I still [childishly] hate those feather caps.)

 

I haven't seen this production live, but I kind of like them, based on the photos. What do you dislike about them?

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23 minutes ago, sandik said:

 

I haven't seen this production live, but I kind of like them, based on the photos. What do you dislike about them?

 

Just one of those subjective knee-jerk reactions. To me, the caps are aesthetically unpleasing and flatter nobody. Which has its advantages, true; it makes all their heads uniform (but uniformly unattractive, I say). I just love the purity and partial cover the more traditional headpieces in most productions offer. I like seeing natural hair, or something inconspicuous covering it.  But Tomasson was looking for something to modernize the production. Have to agree that this fits the bill.  

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The caps remind me of the swimming caps women were required to wear in the 50s and 60s. The explanation: women's hair of any length clogs the pool filters, but the men's didn't. 

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Just from what I've seen, they remind me of some women's styles from the 1920, emphasis on sleek.  I also remember swim caps with disdain (they hurt, and they smelled terrible).

 

I like these much better than the interminable wigs that we see in so many 1950s-80s videos...

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I'm passing through San Francisco on a quick trip and squeezed in one performance of their Swan Lake Friday night. I had heard it was an unorthodox production and it certainly was.

 

They have a prologue for Odette in a white Juliette gown and long hair captured by Rothbart, which told newcomers the story, I suppose, not unlike McKenzie's prologue.The first act seemed hugely revised - with a segment for six young dancers, what seems to be a new slavic corps celebration near the end, and regal gates for entering a magical kingdom (that reminded me of Sleeping Beauty). It seemed longer than usual and there's an intermission after act I. Act II seems intact.

 

The ballroom scene was very truncated, with brief character dances, almost non-existent princesses, but a huge staircase in the middle of the stage that looked just like the promenade stairs at the Met. No intermission between III and IV. A leap off a cliff that was utterly unimpressive - they just disappeared and re-emerged in her human dress.

 

I was actually pleased to see Kochetkova in this, as I've been disappointed in her Met performances in other ballets. The local audiences just love her and she seemed at her best. Many details pushed the envelope and I enjoyed seeing that. Her fouettes were neat and clean -- single-double -- through most of the sequence.

 

Now that I've seen it, I'm not sure I'd bother again -- change for the sake of change, for the most part, without adding anything exciting that I'd want to see again. But I'd love to hear from San Francisco regulars who have seen more in this than I did.

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California, thanks so much for the write-up!  I was supposed to go to Swan Lake Thursday and Friday but had to cancel last minute.  Did the feathered swim caps work with the production?  I think they are hideous and sf_herminator brought me a poster as a joke a few weeks ago, since he knows how much I despise them.

 

I was disappointed when I heard Masha was cast for Friday.  I like her and all, but I have seen her in SL at ABT, so it was interesting to hear your comparison between NYC and SFO performances.

 

I then bought a ticket for Thursday and changed my flight to see YY but it wasn't meant to be.

 

I'd love to hear from anybody else who went Thursday or Friday.

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1 hour ago, California said:

I'm passing through San Francisco on a quick trip and squeezed in one performance of their Swan Lake Friday night. I had heard it was an unorthodox production and it certainly was.

...

they just disappeared and re-emerged in her human dress.

 

Both of them in her dress?  Now that would be unorthodox!  (insert appropriate emoticon here)

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2 hours ago, California said:

I was actually pleased to see Kochetkova in this, as I've been disappointed in her Met performances in other ballets. The local audiences just love her and she seemed at her best. Many details pushed the envelope and I enjoyed seeing that. Her fouettes were neat and clean -- single-double -- through most of the sequence.

 

Now that I've seen it, I'm not sure I'd bother again -- change for the sake of change, for the most part, without adding anything exciting that I'd want to see again. But I'd love to hear from San Francisco regulars who have seen more in this than I did.

 

I made no plans to go to SL this year because of that same, "once is enough" feeling. The San Francisco audience is not Swan Lake obsessed in the same way that one may find in other cities. The YYT and Sofiane Sylve performances would be the ones that I would prefer, but what you say about Masha is to the point: she dances at a high level, with much heart, and the SF audience appreciate her. And for good reason: I literally have never seen a ballet over the years in which she danced poorly, or in a disinterested manner. She might seem somewhat miscast in certain ballets, but at SFB, the principals are involved in most all ballets in the repertoire. There aren't any dancers that "just dance traditional ballet" and get to ignore the contemporary works, for example. If there is a particular SFB dancer characteristic, it would be that they are expected to be able to dance Odette/Giselle in a virtuosic and believable manner AND dance Forsythe/Robbins/van Manen/Morris/Balanchine etc. convincingly (hopefully as well as anyone in the world).

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2 hours ago, sandik said:

 

Both of them in her dress?  Now that would be unorthodox!  (insert appropriate emoticon here)

Actually,  almost that strange. They fall off a cliff, separately.  We never see a lake. I thought they would reappear silhouetted in front of the giant moon in the afterlife. Instead, a stage elevator brings them back to the top of the cliff, he in his prince's outfit, she in the Juliette dress. Are they reincarnated? Were they just fooling Rothbart by pretending to die? Who knows! Very anticlimactic. 

 

The swimming caps were okay. And I did love the huge corps (30) in the white acts.

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I saw it Friday night with Kochetkova/Walsh. I don't know how often this company performs Swan Lake, but I've just moved to SF, so this was my first time seeing them do it. There were a lot of things I didn't like about it, but I almost always enjoy Swan Lake, as long as the core elements are there, and I'm looking forward to returning to see Chung/Luiz and Zahorian/Karapetyan.

 
As others have mentioned, the piece opens with a prologue. In general, I like the inclusion of a prologue, because it helps tell the story, and I also think the overture music is well suited to storytelling. In this prologue, Odette enters in a dress, with her long hair down. She doesn't seem to really be doing anything. (I've seen other prologues where she's picking flowers or something; here she seems to be dancing aimlessly.) Rothbart attempts to engage her. She demurs and disappears from the stage, only to reappear again behind a scrim. Rothbart points at her as the music swells, and she crumples to the ground. Then we see her shadow take the shape of a swan that flaps its wings, but isn't quite able to fly. (For me, this is a bit literal. I've seen other prologues where Odette goes from being a girl in a dress to a girl in a tutu -- I like that a little better. But I still thought the prologue added more than it detracted.)
 
For me, some of the biggest differences came next, in the re-imagined Act I. (In this production, "Act I" refers only to the prince's birthday -- the White Swan Act is called Act II.) Anyway, all of the Act I activity takes place outside the palace gates. You can see the palace facade in the background. It seems like we're watching a courtyard or walkway where children, peasants, and gentlefolk wander about, often talking to each other and paying no mind to the dancing. There's no sense that it's an organized event; rather, it seems that each group decides to dance somewhat spontaneously. The dancing falls roughly into five main segments: a piece featuring five couples, the pas de trois, a brief interlude with six children and the tutor, a peasant dance (which to my eye featured surprisingly simple choreography), and the prince's moody solo a la Nureyev. Absent was the jester, which disappointed me. In my view, the jester in some productions is annoying, but the role has amazing choreography and, with the right dancer and direction, can be a highlight. Here, the music for the jester's stunning turns was used by the children, who did a nice enough job, but clearly it was a different effect.
 
If it's not obvious, overall I felt this act was a bit unsatisfying. The music of these scenes is some of my favorite in the work, and I didn't think the choreography made great use of it. In addition to what I've noted, in one climactic part of the music, we're stuck watching the Queen Mother walk slowly away from the audience toward the castle -- it's basically a long shot of her receding back and train. Separately, I think the tone of this music suggests a grand event, and what this production shows is more a slice of life that references class distinctions. In itself, that isn't a bad thing, but it was a little distracting, since that's not a theme of the ballet. On the upside, I did enjoy very much Sasha de Sola's work in the pas de trois. I thought she danced with a great deal of lightness and joy. (As a sidenote, I also saw her today in "Trio," where she was again a standout.) Walsh as the prince was also good. I don't usually love the prince's moody solo -- I prefer when productions omit it -- but he did a nice job with it. I was less happy with the set: as he danced, the sun set with a blend of colors a few shades more brilliant than what we usually see in the sky, while the silhouettes of flying swans appeared overhead. For me, this was heavy-handed, although I guess it helped tell the story.
 
The White Swan Act opened with something I found surprising -- a giant wedge of rock and an outline of moon that looked bigger than the footprint of my Pac Heights apartment. While I appreciate romanticism, it was a bit much for me. Of course, the dancing was more important. The corps was good, and, while I did not find Kochetkova to be emotionally engaging, I thought she showed good control, well-executed arabesques, and a nice classical style. My nitpick is that I didn't always love her port de bras -- I often felt that her arms were too hard somehow, and when she bourréed off the stage at the end of the act, I thought she was flapping her wings a little too forcefully.
 
As far as her performance goes, I was more pleased with the Black Swan Act. Here I thought she and Walsh showed great chemistry -- their duet was exciting. And in this act, her technique was complemented by better characterization. You could tell she was having fun with the role. Her fouettes were a mix of singles, doubles, and I thought triples, though I might have counted wrong. I did think she was getting a little tired at the end -- I thought she seemed to slow slightly -- but I didn't see any mistakes, and she ended cleanly, in time with the music, which is something that I always appreciate in this sequence. She almost made me forget about the distracting sets, which were again omnipresent. The backdrop here was a giant staircase that led to a landing at the back of the stage before branching off into a separate pathway on each side. It left me thinking, why are they dancing in an entryway? And what's upstairs?
 
In the final act, I could be mistaken, but it seemed to me that the production offered less choreography for the swans than many other productions do. I'll have to pay more attention to that the next time I go. But my impression was that a greater proportion of the act was devoted to Siegfried and the confrontation with Rothbart. While I missed seeing some of my favorite swan patterns, there was a quiet moment here that I liked a great deal -- when Siegfried falls on bended knee before Odette, and the orchestra reprises the music of the moody solo. This somber moment evokes the feeling of a raw and real apology. For me, this was the real finale, as the actual one, which has Siegfried falling limp in the face of true love, then both Odette and Siegfried flinging themselves off the giant wedge of rock, then emerging seemingly healthy in front of the giant moon, confused me a little.
Edited by sasark
typo

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1 hour ago, sasark said:

 

As far as her performance goes, I was more pleased with the Black Swan Act. Here I thought she and Walsh showed great chemistry -- their duet was exciting. And in this act, her technique was complemented by better characterization. You could tell she was having fun with the role. Her fouettes were a mix of singles, doubles, and I thought triples, though I might have counted wrong. I did think she was getting a little tired at the end -- I thought she seemed to slow slightly -- but I didn't see any mistakes, and she ended cleanly, in time with the music, which is something that I always appreciate in this sequence. She almost made me forget about the distracting sets, which were again omnipresent. The backdrop here was a giant staircase that led to a landing at the back of the stage before branching off into a separate pathway on each side. It left me thinking, why are they dancing in an entryway? And what's upstairs?

 

Just a side note: Masha just mentioned on her Instagram page the following: "After our last Swan Lake yesterday. Thank you to this amazing guy [Walsh] for learning this ballet in one week and being there for me and of course to @feldiazinsane [Felipe Diaz, Ballet Master]

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSo-1GyhsSc/?taken-by=balletrusse

 

I kind of remember Walsh mentioning this situation as well somewhere, but I don't know why this was the case. Usually rehearsals for these roles begin way in advance, and then continue a few weeks before the performances.

 

17663407_309750566109367_902070191895504

 

EDIT: Just found Walsh's statement:

 

josephwalshsf:
"Surreal is probably the only word that could slightly encapsulate the feelings I have had this past week and especially last night. Last Thursday I found out I would be learning Swan Lake, only to find out my first show would be opening. I have never performed any of this role besides one variation at a strange jet lagged competition in china in 2007. I have the best support system in the world pushing me to accomplish this. Maria and Felipe, I don't know what to say, we did it, and I almost didn't forget a step! Not to mention I sprained my toe two days ago. Lauren is a hero for putting up with my hours of extra rehearsal in the living room, and night sweat fever dreams ?? love you endlessly. Mom and dad, thanks for the calming chats on the phone, and so happy to have you here after the show to hug and pass out on  ;)"

 

 

Edited by pherank

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Wow, that is amazing!! I'm stunned that he turned in such a polished performance under those circumstances. Thanks pherank!

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Sasark, thanks so much for your detailed report -- I saw the Oregon Ballet Theater production recently (quite a lot of pruning and revising) and have been thinking about what part of the the ballet are non-negotiable for me.  I think that's a topic for a different thread, though -- thanks again for your view of SFB.

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