I was in an utterly foul mood before I entered the Opera House Thursday night, and within twenty minutes of San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” all felt right with the world. Here’s my review in the Chronicle:
“Everyone loves unwrapping shiny new things at Christmastime, but the true test of a “Nutcracker” is how it ages. San Francisco Ballet’s $3.5 million production looked dazzling when it premiered two years ago. It looked even better Thursday, when the company gave it an opening-night performance full of spirit and warmth.
To say that Martin Pakledinaz’s elegant costumes still sparkle and Michael Yeargan’s stunning Edwardian-era sets look freshly minted is to miss this “Nutcracker’s” deeper satisfactions. Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson placed a shrewd bet on civic pride when he set his “Nutcracker” in San Francisco circa the 1915 World’s Fair — but he did so much more right besides.
It’s easy, and common, to transpose the action embedded in Tchaikovsky’s eternal score to a novel time and place, but far more rare to make such emotional and storytelling sense of it. I can only imagine Tomasson’s excitement when he hit upon the device — too clever to reveal here — that allows a grown-up ballerina to dance, as Clara, with her Nutcracker Prince. The moment lifts this “Nutcracker” from mere fantasy to a richer plane, the sweet tale of a not-so-little girl’s first brush with maturity. The whole production, already bathed in lighting designer James F. Ingalls’ luminous pastels, glows more brightly because of it.”
And you have to click through to see this photo of the snow scene by Chronicle photographer Katy Raddatz. Beautiful.