San Francisco Ballet’s Music in Motion Soars High and Far This Season and Next

Janos Gereben on April 22, 2019
San Francisco Ballet in Romeo & Juliet | Credit: Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s 2020 season, announced last week, will divert from the usual programming of ballet companies that includes one — or maybe two — full-length works along with numerous repertory evenings. In a virtually unprecedented move, SFB will offer four such expensive and attractive shows:

- A season-opening reprise of the Christopher Wheeldon’s acclaimed and popular Cinderella (music by Prokofiev, Jan. 21, 2020 – Feb. 2)

- George Balanchine’s choreography to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (March 6–15)

- Balanchine’s Jewels, to music by Fauré, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky (April 15–21) — not a story ballet like the others, but an evening-length program of three acts

- Helgi Tomasson’s choreography for Prokoviev’s Romeo & Juliet (May 1–10)

Frances Chung and Sarah Van Patten in Wheeldon’s Cinderella | Credit: Erik Tomasson

SFB Music Director Martin West reflects on the season’s orchestral underpinning:

The 2020 season opens and closes with Prokofiev, one of the masters of inspiring movement in music. Cinderella, which opens the season, is both striking and clever and Romeo and Juliet comes straight from the heart, and justifiably is one of the most celebrated orchestral scores of the 20th century.

It’s a privilege to conduct such a wide range of composers including Glass, Bach, Stravinsky, Glazunov, Mendelssohn, and even Leroy Anderson in just one season. I’m fortunate and our musicians are fortunate too. Music is alive and well at S.F. Ballet.”

Four repertory programs present a rich mix of styles, from classics to new works. New S.F. Ballet commissions — not yet titled — will be created Cathy Marston and Trey McIntyre; there is a co-commission with American Ballet Theatre of a ballet by Alexei Ratmansky; and the season includes works by David Dawson, Harald Lander, Edwaard Liang, Benjamin Millepied, Mark Morris, Liam Scarlett, Helgi Tomasson, and Stanton Welch.

San Francisco Ballet in Liang’s The Infinite Ocean | Credit: Erik Tomasson

Meanwhile, the company is super-busy through the rest of the year, long before the opening of the next season in January. Here’s what’s upcoming in 2019:

- The current season is winding up with the John Neumeier-Lera Auerbach The Little Mermaid (through April 28), and Alexei Ratmansky’s mighty Shostakovich Trilogy (May 7-12), the three acts set, respectively, on the composer’s Symphony No. 9, Chamber Symphony, and Piano Concerto No. 1.

- The season’s last performance will also mark the retirements of two long-time SFB Orchestra members: Steven D’Amico, principal double bass and last founding member of the orchestra, who joined in 1975, and principal timpanist James Gott, who won his audition in 1989.

- Immediately after the end of the subscription season, the company takes off for London and a substantial residence in Sadler’s Wells, May 29 – June 8, with a program of the Shostakovich Trilogy, Liang’s The Infinite Ocean, Marston’s Snowblind, Pita’s Björk Ballet, Welch’s Bespoke, Scarlett’s Hummingbird, Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem, Wheeldon’s Bound To, and Dawson’s Anima Animus.

Wei Wang in Dawson’s Anima Animus | Credit: Erik Tomasson

- On July 5, hosted by Ballet Sun Valley in Idaho, S.F. Ballet performs a gala-style program of The Fifth Season, Grand Pas Classique, Concerto Grosso, The Sleeping Beauty (pas de deux), UNSAID, Diving into the Lilacs (excerpt), Don Quixote (Act 3 pas de deux); then, on July 7, a mixed repertory program of Bespoke, Your Flesh Shall Be A Great Poem, and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.

- S.F. Ballet is presented by the Royal Danish Ballet in the Royal Danish Opera House in Copenhagen, Oct. 30 – Nov. 2, with four performances of Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet.

- S.F. Ballet’s Dance in Schools and Communities Program (DISC) celebrates a 40-year partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District. Combined with the Community Scholarship Program, it awards more than $420,000 annually to students for dance training in the S.F. Ballet School.

- S.F. Ballet School, in turn, awards more than $1.5 million in financial aid and merit-based scholarships to students each year.

- And finally, at the end of the year, S.F. Ballet will produce Nutcracker, Dec. 11–29, for the 75th year since its American premiere by William Christensen. The current version, set in 1915 in San Francisco during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, was choreographed by Tomasson in 2004.

A combined service of eight decades with the S.F. Ballet Orchestra: the retiring principal bassist Steve D’Amico and Shinji Eshima in the pit at the April 20 matinee of The Little Mermaid | Credit: Janos Gereben