Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Maria Kochetkova Gives Us The Wilis
The chances were slight that I'd be checking out the San Francisco Ballet's third program of the season this week, since it was the 19th century story ballet "Giselle" in a version by the company's director, Helgi Tomasson.
Plus, the first act is a bucolic peasant divertissement which can get old very fast, and the second act takes place in a forest filled with the ghosts of vengeful virgins who've died before they were wed. And they're called The Wilis. Still, there was an interestingly tart review on Monday by the San Francisco Chronicle's new dance reviewer, Rachel Howard (click here), about the miscast prima ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan who is technically awesome but can't act her way out of a paper bag. At the end of the review, Howard wrote: "The buzz among serious ballet watchers is for Maria Kochetkova, who will make her company debut as Giselle on Tuesday."
So I decided to give "Giselle" a chance, and was very happy I did so, since "the buzz" turned out to be correct. Maria Kochetkova, the company's new prima ballerina direct from Russia, turned in a company debut performance that was instantly legendary.
Her cad of a prince playing a pauper breaking her heart was the ridiculously handsome Joan Boada (above), and the corps de ballet were really wonderful all night, but the performance belonged to Kochetkova.
She's tiny, expressive, and actually made you care about the dumb girl. Best of all, in the second act, when she's supposed to be a weightless ghost, she literally floated across the stage more than once. She was getting some support from Boada but it really did look as if she were going to rise up and disappear at any moment. I've never seen anything like it.
The production is traditional and beautiful and the mid-19th century French ballet music of Adolphe Adam is fun stuff. You have one more chance to see Kochetkova in the role, this Saturday night.