‘Nutcracker’ morning returns to SF Ballet, and velvet kids wrap the opera
When Katie Fogelsong returned from church at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning, her daughters, Casey, 10, and Georgia 5, were already in their Christmas dresses waiting at the door.
âThe Nutcrackerâ was back at the San Francisco Ballet, and although the morning didn’t start until 2 pm, they had waited long enough. Two years to be exact is a lifetime for a child waiting to see snow fall inside the War Memorial Opera House.
âEvery year since they could sit still for the show, we were here,â Fogelsong said as his daughters sipped apple juice through straws at the fundraising lunch before the âLand of Dreamsâ show for families. âLast year we watched ‘The Nutcracker’ on DVD, and it was like watching a log burn on TV. You could see it, but you couldn’t feel the magic.
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There was enough pent-up demand for the magic that the five weekend performances sold out the opera house, at 3,000 seats per show. There could have been more, but the first two rows were left empty to allow for social distancing between the musicians in the pit and the audience. Dancers and musicians were unmasked, but the audience was fully masked and all participants were required to show proof of vaccination at the gate, unless they were under 12, in which case proof of a negative test was required.
Everyone who attended the lunch received rapid coronavirus test kits in the mail, and for those who forgot, there was a testing center set up in the basement.
âThe important thing is to bring people back to the opera and bring people back to the ballet,â said Kelsey Lamond, co-chair of the annual luncheon, which sold 230 people – $ 12,000 for a table for 10. The event raises $ 500,000 a year to bring the San Francisco Ballet to Bay Area schools. The three-week run is expected to bring in just under $ 8 million, or 30% of the company’s annual revenue. The ballet sells tickets for as little as $ 19 for almost half of the performances to allow wider access to “The Nutcracker”.
After the show died out last season, ticket sales rebounded and nearly surpassed 2018’s “The Nutcracker” sales.
“About half of ‘The Nutcracker’ audience is new to the San Francisco Ballet,” said Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, interim executive director. “It’s a lavish spectacle that takes place in San Francisco and is an incredible introduction.”
The morning is always busy with children, and a major facet of the introduction is that all the little girls and boys in velvet dresses and tuxedos see children their age on stage.
The party scene in Act 1 normally has 13 child performers under the age of 12, and some as young as 9. This is the dream of many young spectators and many parents carpool to go to ballet schools.
âThe San Francisco Ballet sets the bar very high to make it magical for kids,â Fogelsong said.
But because of COVID-19 and vaccination protocols, this year’s show doesn’t have performers under the age of 12.
âI just love to see what they’re wearing and how they’re dancing in the snow,â said Casey, a fourth grader at La Entrada School in Menlo Park.
Rebecca Sacerdoti of San Francisco has brought her daughters Skye, 10, and Sienna, 7, to The Nutcracker since the age of 6 and 3. Christmas last year was not disappointing, said Sacerdoti, and his daughters have not forgotten. She asked them in September, “What’s the one thing you want to do this holiday season?” The girls resumed in chorus: “Let’s go back to the ‘Nutcracker’. “
So there they were, the first when lunch started at 11:30 am in Zellerbach’s rehearsal room, one block from the opera house. Sienna wore a new animal print dress with a hot pink belt and Skye, not a fan of the dresses, in a new black tuxedo with satin shawl collar and slippers.
At the end of lunch, all the children were escorted to the opera house by Santa Claus. The decorated lobby was noisy with voices and children sliding across the marble floor in their dress shoes.
It is the last season of “The Nutcracker”, under the direction of Helgi Tomasson, who created it in 2004. He is retiring after 37 years. On December 30, there will have been 29 performances for the season, but none match the youthful exuberance of a rainy Sunday morning.
Coming up from Atherton, the Fogelsong girls asked, “Are we there already?” “Every 15 minutes,” she said. Once the curtain was raised a few minutes after 2 pm, âthey were completely in loveâ. The day’s activity meant at least eight hours in their fancy Christmas outfits and at least eight Christmas cookies and eight chocolate-covered strawberries eaten.
âIt’s very important and exciting,â Fogelsong said. âIt keeps the family tradition alive. “
“Nutcracker”: San Francisco Ballet. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturdays; 2 p.m. on Sunday; 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Until December 30. War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., SF $ 19- $ 325. 415-865-2000. www.sfballet.org
SF Ballet’s Magnificent ‘The Nutcracker’ Returns When We Need It Most