San Francisco Ballet’s “Cinderella” looks particularly great the third time around at the War Memorial Opera House.
In previous incarnations here in 2013 and 2017, the actual dance in Christopher Wheeldon’s 2012 co-production with Dutch National Ballet somehow seemed to get lost amid the dazzling sets, costumes and special effects worthy of a Disney spectacle.
But on Tuesday’s opening night, graceful Frances Chung in the title role, robust Joseph Walsh as her prince and the rest of the delightfully animated cast brought the performance to the same level as the production values.
The show – Program 1 of the company’s 2020 season — is lovely, enchanting and fun.
Newcomers should be cautioned that Wheeldon’s version of the tale replaces the fairy godmother with four dark-clad Fates — Alexander Reneff-Olson, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Max Cauthorn and Steven Morse – who magically turn Cinderella into the mysterious belle of the royal ball. That happens after the beleaguered girl encounters colorful spirits and gnomes under a massive tree (designed by Basil Twist), which grows after her mother dies and she’s forced into a rude step-family. (Reading program notes is advised!)
Sarah Van Patten as the drunken stepmom and Elizabeth Powell and Ellen Rose Hummel as the fussy stepsisters poured on the comedy, as did the ensemble in the amusing Act 3 lineup when the prince searches in vain for the foot that fits the golden shoe Cinderella left at the party. (Some of Twist’s human-sized puppet characters are among the candidates.)
This story also gives the prince a rowdy friend; zippy Esteban Hernandez joined Walsh in merry high jinks throughout.
As is often the case, conductor Martin West led the impeccable orchestra in Prokofiev’s beautiful score, and the setting captivated, from the initial projection (by Daniel Brodie) of a bird flitting across the scrim, to chairs in Cinderella’s house that hover in the air, to glittering chandeliers in the palace.
Julian Crouch designed the impressive scenery as well as costumes, including the to-die-for lustrous blue and purple formal wear the ensemble sported in the snazzy ballroom scene.
It was a party the Opera House audience was thrilled to attend.
San Francisco Ballet Program 1
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23; 8 p.m. Jan. 24; 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 25 and Feb 1; 2 p.m. Jan. 26 and Feb. 2
Tickets: $35 to $399
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sf ballet.org