SF Ballet’s sumptuous, splendid ‘Sleeping Beauty’

In the 21st century, San Francisco Ballet is executing the classics with panache, as seen in 2018’s season opener, “The Sleeping Beauty.”

Even though artistic director Helgi Tomasson has proclaimed his excitement over the company’s upcoming spring festival of new works, he remains committed to tradition, too. The revival of his lavish 1990 production, based on Petipa’s 1890 story ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s soaring score, is simply beautiful from start to finish.

On Tuesday’s opening night at the War Memorial Opera House, all of the dancers dazzled with technical prowess, sentiment and style, beginning with charming Prologue solos by tutu-clad Wanting Zhao, Koto Ishihara, Isabella Devivo, Jahna Frantziskonis and Wona Park as the fairies greeting baby Princess Aurora. (Several return with equal liveliness in the closing wedding scene.)

Sarah Van Patten commanded the stage as the commanding Lilac Fairy.

Act 1 gets going with the grown-up princess, danced by the lovely, regal Sasha De Sola, who conquered the famously difficult balances in the Rose Adagio scene, greeting suitors with a smile. A more serious Carlo Di Lanno powerfully partnered her as the prince.

On a lighter note, Wei Wang literally flew as the Bluebird, accompanied by an enchanting Dores Andre.

The corps, with impeccable synchronization, was another vision of loveliness, particularly in the rosy, melodic, carousel-like Garland Dance.

Happily — unlike the case with 2017’s “Frankenstein” and “Salome” — the company’s nimble performers didn’t play second banana to the scenery. Jens-Jacob Worsaae’s resplendent, big-budget scenery (the staircase in the wedding scene is almost its own character) and colorful, sparkling costumes (constructed by Royal Danish Ballet), lit by Craig Miller, perfectly complement the gorgeous dancing.

Act 1, set in Russia in the 17th century, has Byzantine palace architecture and lustrous flowing robes in earth tones; Acts 2 and 3, set 100 years later, have a European feel, with men in waistcoats and powdered wigs.

Martin West conducted the infallible orchestra — especially pleasing tones came from harpist Annabelle Taubl — in Tchaikovsky’s timeless music.

Indeed, this “Sleeping Beauty” deserves to be seen as much the quintessential Romatic composer’s more frequently produced “Swan Lake” and “Nutcracker.”

Sleeping Beauty
Presented by San Francisco Ballet
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25, 8 p.m. Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, 2 p.m. Jan. 28 and Feb. 4
Tickets: $28 to $255
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org

Leslie Katz

San Francisco Examiner’s arts and entertainment editor Leslie Katz has been assigning, editing and/or writing news stories about the Bay Area’s rich cultural scene since 1997. Reach her at (415) 359-2727 or lkatz@sfexaminer.com.

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