The San Francisco Ballet gala evening Wednesday in the War Memorial Opera House opened the oldest American company’s 77th season, with Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson in charge for the 25th year.
Tomasson and his wife, Marlene, were greeted onstage with a standing ovation before the program. She received the Lew Christensen Medal “honoring those who have left an indelible mark on the history of the San Francisco Ballet.” Tomasson himself received the medal in 2005.
Of the 16 works in the gala’s program, 10 were choreographed by Tomasson. Two were among his best, both featuring men in robust, athletic configurations slashing through the air — the “Concerto Grosso” and the Winter movement from the Vivaldi “Four Seasons,” with Taras Domitro and 11 men. Kay Stern played violin solo.
In “Concerto Grosso,” five men performed spectacularly individually and in ensemble — principal dancer Pascal Molat, and soloists James Sofranko, Garen Scribner, Hansuke Yamamoto and Diego Cruz from the Corps de Ballet.
The men, however, had no monopoly on excellence, as there are so many great ballerinas in the company:
Given that 16 numbers, some quite lengthy, were squeezed into a two-hour program progressing without a hitch, top honors also go to the technical crew and stagehands. They rarely receive kudos because the audience is aware of them only when something goes wrong — and nothing did at the gala.
In the pit, the Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of Martin West, did a fine job of turning on a dime from Bach to Tchaikovsky to Martinu to Bright Sheng and beyond. Michael McGraw and Roy Bogas played their usual effortless best in piano-solo accompaniments.
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: Program 1, “Swan Lake,” Jan. 23-31; Program 2, mixed repertory, Feb. 9-20; Program 3, all Balanchine, Feb. 11-21; Program 4, mixed repertory, March 2-7; Program 5, “The Little Mermaid,” March 20-28; Program 6, mixed repertory, April 8-21; Program 7, mixed repertory, April 9-20; Program 8, “Romeo and Juliet,” May 1-9
Tickets: $20 to $275
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org