DON QUIXOTE – An Impossible Dream at SF Ballet

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

Something was in the air at the Saturday night opening of DON QUIXOTE and it was more than the awesome razor-sharp gravity-defying leaps of Principal Soloist Davit Karapetyan as “Basilio”. Where was his complimentary partner from this Season’s previous programs and as established in the 2006 production of SWAN LAKE — Lorena Feijóo? Among the topmost treasures of San Francisco Ballet is internationally acclaimed prima ballerina Lorena Feijóo. Throughout the 2007 Season the Intermission chatter has included the “just you wait” of watching the luscious Cuban-born beauty repeat her now legendary interpretation of “Kitri” and – depending on how the casting cards were dealt by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and one’s own personal ticket karma – the supporting embrace and determined drive of Leading Man Joan Boada. As of this publication, neither of their names appears on the schedule of remaining performances.

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DAVIT KARAPETYAN and VANESSA ZAHORIAN – in Tomasson-Possokhov’s DON QUIXOTE. Photo by Erik Tomasson

Details 2BAnnounced, no doubt. But the on-stage intelligence was screaming loud and clear – through the invisible 4th Wall, past the orchestra pit and dubious baton of guest conductor David LaMarche – “The show must go on”. Our antiphonal response of “we know that you know that we know” surely penetrated to their back wall, even past those silly lightning bolts of Lisa J. Pinkham. The Intermission exchanges, however, were far more articulate – puzzled-faces checking watches, the switching back-on of cell phones, text-messaging, yawning, eye-rolling, and more aggressive moaning from those who tolerance of tutu-ballets was being stretched too-too thin. Come the house fade of Act Three, a number of seat-holders had faded from the house – the SROs filling-in by lights-out. At the curtain call, a handful of the bound & determined (to get their money’s worth) actually got up to applaud. But for the Opening Night veterans (from farther back than my head could turn) and those who hold out for theatrical miracles (such as whoever/whatever those dreary fairy “Driads” of Act II were choreographed to conjure) the applause and scattered shouts were about the occasional displays of daunting footwork, along with our plaudits of gratitude to an ingratiating ensemble, and an “Adieu” to Muriel Maffre. Unfortunately, there are no photos available of Ms. Maffre as the tempestuous “Mercedes” or of her handsome partner Moises Martin as “Espada”. Even dear Pascal Molat as “Sancho Panza” – nothing. What we have all caught onto are those deliberately pathetic put-down dweeby thumb-nail barely recognizable yearbook photos in the published Programs. Time for Change!

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DAVIT KARAPETYAN – as Basilio, DON QUIXOTE. Photo by Erik Tomasson

The Company identified as the San Francisco Ballet is celebrated as “World Class”. It follows that this is a particular group of Musical Athletes who are astonishingly beautiful, whose disciplined bodies and dazzling auras are not only in constant centerfold readiness but represent the very definition of Superstar. In days of yore, names of such accomplished Artists appeared above the Title – certainly above that of the artistic director or resident choreographers, and even above such second-ring composers as Ludwig Minkus. Every corner Newsboy would be shouting out the Block-Letter Headlines of Who was dancing that night … or not. And why. [But then, as recently stated on more than one episode by TV's favorite GILMORE GIRLS, one of The City's printing-press dailies is "a terrible newspaper".]

Without a true Latin Leading Lady – one who brings her life’s blood and blazing spirit to the arms of her impassioned lover – the Tomasson/Possokhov DON QUIXOTE is nothing more than a dancer’s showcase held together by the palest thread of a plot. San Francisco Ballet prides itself in its bevy of similarly qualified Principal Dancers. Four pairs of principals are teamed for the remaining seven performances. How does this fact inform our perceptions of this particular vision of a heretofore much-loved opus within Classical Repertoire? This DON QUIXOTE is extremely ordinary, often inconsistent, and occasionally clunky. Even the horse and donkey were nonplussed. Overheard in the audience – “Are they real?”

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LUDWIG MINKUS, Composer – SANCHO PANZA and DON QUIXOTE, by Picasso

Stepping up to the plate for Saturday’s opening, the lovely and extremely gifted Vanessa Zahorian. She deserves her place in the Spotlight. But Lorena Feijóo deserves her place in the Sun. In the world of Theatre – that place, that light is Opening Night.

To order tickets on-line:
Tue, May 1, 2007, 8:00 PM
Conductor: David LaMarche
Kitri: Tina LeBlanc
Basilio: Gonzalo Garcia

Wed, May 2, 2007, 7:30 PM
Conductor: David LaMarche
Kitri: Molly Smolen
Basilio: Tiit Helimets

Thu, May 3, 2007, 8:00 PM
Conductor: David LaMarche
Kitri: Tina LeBlanc
Basilio: Gonzalo Garcia

Fri, May 4, 2007, 8:00 PM
Conductor: Martin West
Kitri: Vanessa Zahorian
Basilio: Davit Karapetyan

Sat, May 5, 2007, 2:00 PM
Conductor: Martin West
Kitri: Kristin Long
Basilio: Gennadi Nedvigin

Sat, May 5, 2007, 8:00 PM
Conductor: David LaMarche
Kitri: Tina LeBlanc
Basilio: Gonzalo Garcia

Sun, May 6, 2007, 2:00 PM
Conductor: Martin West
Kitri: Vanessa Zahorian
Basilio: Davit Karapetyan

See Seán’s recent interviews and articles:
THE DAMNATION OF FAUST – Absolute Heaven at Davies Symphony Hall
JEANETTE MacDONALD – First Lady of “San Francisco”
ALTAR BOYZ – In San Francisco
An Interview with PASCAL MOLAT – Principal Soloist, San Francisco Ballet
TERRA HAUTE – An Interview with The Stars, John Hutchinson and Elias Escobedo
Agnes de Mille’s RODEO – at SAN FRANCISCO BALLET
COLOR ME KUBRICK – starring John Malkovich

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San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield 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. Ask 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: seanmartinfield@att.net.

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