The first of the three pieces that make up Balanchine ballet Jewels was filmed at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco in front of an empty auditorium in January of this year. Emeralds, together with Rubies and Diamonds that were previously filmed, are available online for three weeks, until 21 April.
Emeralds was filmed under the strict safety protocols set by the San Francisco Department of Public Health guidelines, which necessitated that the music was prerecorded by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra at the Skywalker Studios and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Inspired by the designs of the jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels, Jewels premiered in 1967 at New York City Ballet celebrating the dancing styles of France (Emeralds – set to excerpts from Faure’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Shylock), the United States (Rubies – using Stravinsky’s jazz-inspired Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra), and Russia (Diamonds – using Tchaikovsky’s grand Symphony No 3). Jewels was first seen in 2002 at San Francisco Ballet, and last performed there in 2009.
Karinska’s famed costumes are set off by Susan Touhy’s impressive giant emerald brooch poised above the dancers’ heads in the first ballet, with Misa Kuranaga, Angelo Greco, Sasha Mukhamedov and Aaron Robison all making debuts. Mathilde Froustey and Wanting Zhao are both impeccably polished in Rubies and Pascal Molat is an able partner for them both. The two flawless diamonds are Sasha De Sola and Tiit Helimets.
The company’s Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson has dedicated the Jewels stream to the memory of Elyse Borne, a leading Balanchine répétiteur who staged dozens of ballets for the company from 1996. Borne died in December 2019, shortly after rehearsing Jewels to prepare for performances during the 2020 Season. Tomasson says,
While recording Emeralds on stage this year we all thought fondly of Elyse. She and I met while dancing for New York City Ballet in the 1970s and 80s. We were both aware of how fortunate we were to be a part of that last generation of dancers who worked directly with Balanchine. She joined us as ballet master in 1997 after working with companies all over the world, and over the following six years, she guided and supported the dancers here with expertise, grace, and humour. She will always be a long-remembered colleague and dear friend.
Tickets to Jewels are available now as single stream tickets for $29 or included with the Premium Plus Digital Package, which offers unlimited viewing of the 2021 Digital Season in addition to bonus content for $289. Tickets and packages may be purchased online at www.sfballet.org.
SF Ballet hosts Celebrating Jewels on 20 April 20, online via Zoom. The event unites former New York City Ballet principal dancers Kay Mazzo, Mimi Paul, and Edward Villella, alongside Helgi Tomasson, to discuss their memories and insight into Balanchine’s iconic ballet. General admission tickets to Celebrating Jewels are $20; donors and subscribers receive access to the program for a reduced rate or for free.
San Francisco Ballet Pop-Up Shop
San Francisco Ballet hosts a pop-up shop open to the public on 2 and 3 April from 10 to 3 pm, observing COVID-19 regulations as suggested by the City of San Francisco, in celebration of Jewels, offering a 25% discount on all jewellery. The pop-up shop is held at 2400 Cesar Chavez, San Francisco, 94124. Parking is free. Donors and subscribers can access the sale early on Thursday 1 April 2021 from 10 to 3 pm.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.