ROMEO AND JULIET – Poetic Finale at SF Ballet

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s ROMEO AND JULIET is a superb conclusion to what has been an ultimately satisfying and artistically brilliant season at San Francisco Ballet. Set to the 1935 score by Sergei Prokofiev, the ballet combines Classical dance along with elements of pantomime and commedia dell’arte to realize Shakespeare’s tragic tale of star cross’d lovers. Tomasson’s Romeo and Juliet premiered in 1994. The production’s original fight director, Marty N. Pistone (The Mask of Zorro, film, 1998), returned to choreograph the spectacular rapier and dagger scenes. The plazas of 16th Century Verona are popular arenas for rival young aristocrats to suddenly kill each other off over the slightest sign of attitude, aggression and disrespect. Pistone’s work with Tomasson and the men of SF Ballet results in the best timed and most convincing exchanges of tempered metal. Set designs by Jens-Jacob Worsaae capture the grandeur and heaviness of the period, but are light and portable enabling quick changes of locale. Likewise, his costume designs reflect the ostentatious wealth of the Capulets and Montagues, the separate families being easily distinguished by warm earthy tones and patrician blues. Lighting schemes by the late Tony-nominated Thomas R. Skelton illustrate the collecting tensions of hope and danger in an approaching dawn, in the secrets and solemnities of Friar Laurence’s chapel, and within the cold sanctuary of a family tomb.

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Marriage Scene. Sarah Van Patten, Pierre-François Vilanoba,
Ricardo Bustamante (Friar Laurence), Anita Paciotti (Nurse)
Photo, Erik Tomasson

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Pierre-François Vilanoba and Sarah Van Patten in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet.
Photo, Erik Tomasson

Tomasson’s creation is peppered with techniques that seem lifted from classic silent film – the plot is unfolded through an economy of pantomime, body positions and facial expressions positioned for those all-important close-ups, and a crew on the follow spots who never miss a beat. In the opening night performance, Sarah Van Patten was the sunshine of Shakespeare’s “Juliet”. Her lightness and graceful technique were matched by a complete understanding of the role. As her “Romeo”, Pierre-François Vilanoba is the ideal leading man. The pair were also featured in the earlier “star cross’d” hit, The Little Mermaid. The season has seen Vilanoba in peak condition and with consistently excellent technique. Damian Smith brings a fiery edge to the villainous role of “Tybalt”. Sporting a new look as a swarthy Mediterranean, Mr. Smith’s characterization is appropriately aggressive and arrogant. Tomasson’s choreography places Juliet and the Nurse at the scene of the fatal duel between Romeo and Tybalt. Along with his deft handling of the rapier, Damian Smith’s performance recalls the “Tybalt” of Basil Rathbone in the 1936 M.G.M. film version featuring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard in the title roles.

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Pierre-François Vilanoba and Damian Smith (Tybalt).
Photo, Erik Tomasson

The role of Romeo’s squirrelly and bawdy friend “Mercutio” is a major challenge even for the best of Shakespearean performers. Pascal Molat’s amazing physicality and mastery over gravity are matched by his personal charisma, dramatic elasticity and superior comic timing. His sensibilities with the elements of tragedy and rage (he is the ideal “Hilarion” of Giselle), and now as “Mercutio” – conveying never-ending lust and a jaded dismissal of the sober and well-ordered life – such versatility marks Pascal Molat as San Francisco Ballet’s Most Valuable Player.

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PASCAL MOLAT – as “Mercutio”. Photo, Erik Tomasson

Performances continue:
Tuesday, May 4th, at 8:00 PM

Wednesday, May 5th, at 7:30 PM

Thursday, May 6th, at 8:00 PM

Friday, May 7th, at 8:00 PM

Saturday, May 8th, 2:00 PM

Saturday, May 8th, at 8:00 PM

Sunday, May 9th, at 2:00 PM

Click here to order tickets on-line: ROMEO & JULIET

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Visit Seán on YouTube:
”As Time Goes By” – aboard Cunard’s Queen Victoria
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
“Embraceable You” – On The Organ – At the Legion of Honor
Samson vs. Dalilah at AT&T Ballpark
DALILAH – In residence at San Francisco’s de Young Museum

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.


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