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A Stunner!

Orange County
Segerstrom Hall
09/30/2011 -  and October 1, 2, 2011
Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, opus 64
Joan Boada (Romeo), Maria Kochetkova (Juliet), Gennadi Nedvigin (Mercutio), Damian Smith (Tybalt), Ricardo Bustamante (Friar Laurence), Val Caniparoli (Lord Capulet), Sofiane Sylve (Lady Capulet), Anita Paciotti (Nurse), Garen Scribner (Count Paris), Jaime Garcia Castilla (Benvolio), Martino Pistone (Prince of Verona), Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun (Rosaline), Ruben Martin Cintas (Lord Montague), Mariellen Olson (Lady Montague), Courtney Elizabeth/Pauli Magierek (Harlots), Dores Andre/Benjamin Stewart/Matthew Stewart (Acrobats), Clara Blanco/Nicole Ciapponi/Koto Ishihara/Madison Keesler/Alexandra McCullagh (Julietís Friends), Diego Cruz/Jeremy Rucker/Benjamin Stewart/Matthew Stewart/Raymond Tilton/Quinn Wharton (Capulet Men), Daniel Baker/Dustin Spero/Myles Thatcher/Sebastian Vinet (Montague Men), San Francisco Corps de Ballet
San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, Martin West (Music Director and Principal Conductor)
Helgi Tomasson (Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer), Jens-Jacob Worsaae (Scenic and Costume Designer), Thomas R. Skelton (Lighting Designer), Martino Pistone/Helgi Tomasson (Fight Scene Choreographer)

(© Erik Tomasson)

Helgi Tomasson, San Francisco Balletís artistic director since 1985, has a remarkable sense of interpreting music via the field of dance, and launches Segerstrom Hallís 25th anniversary event with a bang by staging Sergei Prokofievís Romeo and Juliet. It would be hard to find anyone thatís not reduced to tears due to the productionís sheer intensity and pronounced passion. Tomassonís objective is to magnify and develop each character in great detail, not even sparing the smallest of roles, drawing the audience into Romeo and Juliet in a realistic manner by melding all theatrical elements into one coherent interpretation. He spares no detail.

It was decided to use Prokofievís musical backdrop over that of Hector Berlioz because of the formerís more expressive qualities. Prokofievís music is a fluttering bridge between the Romantic Era and the characteristically weighted Russian accents from the Modernism Movement. Martin Westís orchestral coloring has an overall pleasing conservative tone despite an occasional overpowering and squeaky brass section. The music moves the action, and thematic tunes, well pronounced in the balletís opening act, are subtly reintroduced throughout the remaining acts with a few notes. In particular, Act IIIís opening orchestral interlude is extremely powerful and trenchant. Mr. Tomasson brilliantly cues choreographic moments to accentuate the orchestral dynamics. In tandem with Martino Pistone, they create fight scenes that are most convincing, and with countless hours spent in this area, they pay great dividends in thrilling and enthralling fashion.

Maria Kochetkova reigns supreme in her role as Juliet. When we first meet Kochetkova, she exudes youthfulness first appearing as a naÔve girl who rapidly evolves into a troubled young woman whose emotions are well translated during her solo in Act III, Scene II. Whether in a solo or pas de deux, her expressive qualities draw us into her character with great feeling and infectious pathos. Combined with Mr. Tomassonís brilliantly choreographed moves, Ms. Kochetkovaís performance is flawless and emotionally charged. Her pas de deux with Romeo has a balance of floating, elegant lifts that look like smooth silk.

(© Erik Tomasson)

Cuban native Joan Boada plays the role of Romeo perfectly as he grapples with the plight of family feuds, love, honor and horror. The pas de deux in The Balcony scene has some of most graceful and spectacular moments, but, is unfortunately disrupted by an unnerving shaky spotlight thatís never rectified; Act II Scene I (Julietís Bedroom) contains the pas de deux that intelligently and creatively displays the loversí true inner feelings of passion and impending fear. Boadaís grand jetť en tournant in Act II, Scene I is stupendous.

Gennadi Nedvigin is a fitting Mercutio with his taunts and mawkish gesticulations, and alongside Romeo and Benvolio, danced by Jaime Garcia Castilla, the menís pas de trios nicely expresses the bandís camaraderie. Damian Smith is a wonderful, incorrigible Tybalt; both Val Caniparoli and Sofiane Sylve exude a flair of aloofness as Julietís parents.

Prokofievís rather lively yet macabre music is the backdrop for the Acrobatsí effervescent performance. They are fully dressed in beautiful orange and black checkered vests and striped leotards. This punctuated color is heightened by Thomas R. Skeltonís intensified lighting. Julietís friends, costumed in peach dresses, dance a light and delicate pas de cinq set against the strumming strings of the mandolin.

Jens-Jacob Worsaaeís scenery and costume design are a quintessential display of period appropriate Italian Renaissance. The lavish interior of the Capulet House, replete with a gilded ceiling, floor to ceiling art work and Classical columns houses a retinue of guests dressed in beautifully brocaded black and rose colored dress while Camťe Broderieís elaborate embroidery adorns the resplendent black wardrobe fittings of Lord and Lady Capulet. The beautifully ornate gate found Act III encloses the inner sanctum of the Capulet Tomb, complete with sarcophagi. Romeo and Julietís 14 scenes present themselves with a logistical challenge, but Worsaae accomplishes these transformations using a front screen allowing Tomasson to economically calculate use of the available space.

San Francisco Balletís portrayal of the story involving the doomed lovers is first rate. It moves along well and encases each scene with clarity despite some noisiness from the moving sets.

A pinnacle of perfection this Romeo and Juliet will keep you on edge and never let your eyes drift from the stage. This is one of the finest productions to have visited Orange County. A+.

Christie Grimstad



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