My preview in this Sunday’s Chronicle:
“Helgi Tomasson is having trouble keeping secrets.
The normally reserved, cool artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet rises suddenly from the sofa in his office at the Ballet Association building. He hurries across the room, pauses as if he knows he shouldn’t do this, then lifts a black cloth. Voila! Before him stands a scale model of the third-act set for his new production of “Swan Lake,” premiering Saturday.
A boyish smile warms Tomasson’s face, and he clasps his hands.
“Now you can see,” he says.
And it’s impossible not to share in his anticipation. The palace scene devised by Tony-nominated Broadway designer Jonathan Fensom looks nothing like the fusty Watteau-inspired ballroom of Tomasson’s previous “Swan Lake” production, which raised the level of the company’s dancing – and its national stature – at its first performances in 1988. In fact, the new set’s bold spaciousness – and in particular, a dramatic focal point Tomasson wants to keep under wraps – looks strikingly different from the antiquated image much of the general public probably holds of the Tchaikovsky classic.
Tomasson is counting on the full-size realization of this model to live up to the dazzle. This “Swan Lake,” more than two years in the making with a budget of $3 million, must stay vital for at least 15 years.
Then there is Tomasson’s deeper ambition. He wants to defy that catch-22 of ballet box office: Productions of the story ballet classics such as “Swan Lake” are essential to drawing in older audiences, yet can project an image of ballet as outmoded to a new generation of viewers.
“I don’t want this ‘Swan Lake’ to look old-fashioned for young people,” he says, reiterating his most cherished goal for the fourth or fifth time. “To me, this is really a love story. A strong love story. I wanted to rekindle that part of it.” ”
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Casting is now available here. I’ll be seeing all six pairs of Odette/Odiles and Siegfrieds and reviewing them all for the Chronicle.