Metro Weekly

San Francisco Ballet kicks off 2021 season with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Filmed production of George Balanchine's ballet opens a digital season including Mrs Robinson, Romeo & Juliet, and Swan Lake

san francisco ballet, a midsummer night's dream
San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust — Photo: Erik Tomasson

Although nothing can top a show performed live on stage to an in-person audience, there are at least two distinct advantages to productions presented for online viewing, as longtime artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet Helgi Tomasson spelled out last October.

“I am excited for us to be able to reach those across the world to whom we’ve not been previously accessible. For our devoted audiences, watching a story ballet captured on film will be a unique experience, as one can really see the emotions displayed by the dancers,” Tomasson said in a press release announcing the company’s “reimagined” all-digital 2021 season.

The season kicks off with a filmed production of George Balanchine’s story ballet adapted from Shakespeare, accompanied by the San Francisco Ballet’s impressive orchestra, plus vocal ensemble Volti, performing Felix Mendelssohn’s passionate and playful score as led by Music Director Martin West.

Originally staged in 1962 by the New York City Ballet, this adaptation from the man regarded as the father of American ballet was also Balanchine’s first completely original, full-length production.

The work distills Shakespeare’s five acts into just two, spread across six scenes, and ends with a classical dance wedding celebration.

The gang’s all here — Puck, Titania, Oberon, and the briefly donkey-headed Bottom — and all part of an overarching tale of love, magic, and revelry set primarily in an enchanting forest where mischievous fairies and unsuspecting human lovers interact. The production features grandly realized scenic and costume design by Tony Award winner Martin Pakledinaz.

Following Midsummer, the company offers programs of three world premieres, conceived for film, including Mrs. Robinson, based on the Hollywood classic The Graduate, and two additional story ballets, Tomasson’s signature takes on Romeo & Juliet and Swan Lake, presented back-to-back in May.

Midsummer Night’s Dream is available until Feb. 10. Tickets, offering 72-hour streaming access, are $29, or $289 for access to all of the season’s seven programs as well as exclusive bonus content. Call 415-865-2000 or visit www.sfballet.org.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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