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The Shostakovich Trilogy – A Winner at San Francisco Ballet

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The Shostakovich Trilogy

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San Francisco Ballet presents its premiere of The Shostakovich Trilogy through Sunday, April 13 at the War Memorial Opera House. Choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, the ballet is a co-production with American Ballet Theatre which premiered the work in 2012. The ballet is in three parts with two intermissions featuring three grand and varied works by the most important Russian composer of the 20th Century.

The program opens with Symphony No. 9, followed by Chamber Symphony, (aka, String Quartet No. 8 in C minor), and concluding with the composer’s tour-de-force, Piano Concerto No.1. The spectacular opening performance on Wednesday night revealed a powerful amalgamation of Classical technique and contemporary expectation.

The opening night cast of Symphony No. 9 featured Taras Domitro, Simone Messmer, Carlos Quenedit, James Sofranko, Sarah Van Patten and sixteen members of the corps de ballet. The music, composed in 1945, was criticized by Stalin’s regime for failing to rouse a nationalistic fervor. The five movements were deemed inappropriate as a way to celebrate Russia’s defeat of the Nazis in February 1943. But along with scenic designer George Tsypin’s colorful hammers and sickles, etc., suspended above the dancers and the clever lighting patterns of Jennifer Tipton, what choreographer Alexei Ratmansky brings forth is the composer’s underlying condemnation of political and artistic oppression.

By contrast, Chamber Symphony, written in 1960, takes a biographical approach. It is an all too brief overview of Shostakovich’s personal story, particularly his relationships with three wives, his artistic struggles amid totalitarianism, and the crippling effects of his failing health due to what we now refer to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Davit Karapetyan’s dramatic interpretation of the composer was riveting throughout. Sasha De Sola danced the role of Nina, his first wife. Mathilde Froustey appeared as Margarita and Lorena Feijóo as Irina.

The final section, Piano Concerto No. 1, is a virtuoso piece all around. Pianist Michael McGraw delivered a fine rendition of the whirlwind composition which Shostakovich himself played at the 1933 premiere. Trumpeter John Pearson Principal pierced the atmosphere with color and mischief. The choreography for principal dancers Maria Kochetkova, Vitor Luiz, Damian Smith and Yuan Yuan Tan was striking and brilliant. As was true throughout the evening, the supporting members of the corps de ballet are tuned to perfection.

Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy was a wise investment. Classical Ballet in the 21st Century is looking fine.
Click on the date to order tickets on-line:
Saturday, April 5, 2pm
Saturday, April 5, 8pm
Tuesday, April 8, 8pm
Friday, April 11, 8pm
Sunday, April 13, 2pm

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