Monday, February 05, 2007
Shostakovich and Stravinsky at The Ballet
When writing about the San Francisco Ballet's opening night Gala (click here), I noted that standing room tickets had jumped from $8 to $18 this season, which seemed a trifle steep, and asked the company publicly on this blog and privately in conversation to rethink the policy.
The message somehow made it to the proper authorities in the company, and I can announce with pride and happiness that standing room tickets have gone back to a very reasonable $10 for the season. Hurrah.
On Saturday evening the 3rd, the Ballet was performing three one-act ballets as "Mixed Program #2," and I was drawn by the music being played, which included two early 20th-century Russian musical masterpieces, Shostakovich's jazzy and wild First Piano Concerto and Stravinsky's "Firebird."
The first piece on the program, "Blue Rose," was choreographed by the company's Artistic Director, Helgi Tomasson to some modern "Russian rag" music. Since I have found Tomasson's choreography over the years to be extraordinarily dull, I wisely missed the first number and arrived just before it finished, where I ran into Kyle (above) who confirmed that "Blue Rose" was indeed an exercise in ennui and that my instincts had been correct.
Nobody looked too excited at the first intermission, either, but things perked up significantly with the second ballet, "The Dance House," choroegraphed for the company in 1995 by David Bintley to the Shostakovich Piano Concert.
The music was as delightful as ever, the dancing exquisite, and the choreography rather weird in that its programmatic tale didn't fit the concerto very well. At first, I thought the piece was supposed to be about Stalinist oppression or something similar, but upon reading the program later, found that it was supposed to be an AIDS Ballet with the menacing character who appears throughout representing Patient Zero. Oh, puhleeze.
The highlight of the ballet was the dancing in the slow movement of new Principal Dancer Molly Smolen, who performed with her Estonian husband, Tiit Helimets. It's difficult to say what makes Smolen so different from the other dancers and so compulsively watchable, but for whatever reason, there's something very special about this lady.
The "Firebird" was in a new staging by company choreographer Yuri Possokhov, and though it was colorful and amusing, it was also very silly. Actually, the same could be said of just about every "Firebird" staging I've seen over the decades in spite of the great, well-known score, but this version still ranked among the silliest. But who cares? Standing room was only $10 and the evening was worth every penny.