Monday, February 24, 2014

The Style Saloniste Favorites — DATELINE: Juan-les-Pins, Cote d'Azur

THE STYLE SALONISTE FAVORITES: This week, a fresh look at one of my favorite travel stories. It's about Modernism gallery founder/director the great Martin Muller—but it is also about my discoveries, adventures, emotional literary connections and finds along the Riviera. Come with me for a recap of this dreamy escape.

International art Dealer Martin Muller at the Legendary Hotel Belles-Rives

The Hotel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins near Cannes was the location for the summer house of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This glorious thirties-style hotel, privately owned by Marianne Estène-Chauvin, and its private beach inspired locations for ‘Tender is the Night’.

Each summer for the last three decades, the Hotel Belles Rives ('beautiful shores') has been the private retreat for international art dealer, Martin Muller. Martin is the founder and owner of Modernism gallery in San Francisco and a longtime friend. Each year he sends me postcards, small works of art, all handmade and evocative of sea air and the timeless and ineffable beauty of Juan-les-Pins.

In his sea-view suite (the same one each year, with furniture, paintings and décor arranged precisely to his wishes) Martin paints and collages while below on the sheltered beach an international coterie of guests swim, lunch, sip rose, and snooze all along the sun-struck day.

Martin sends his postcards, all with personal notes and beautiful stamps, to his artists and pals around the world, who collect them avidly. At the heart of his art is always the Hotel Belles Rives.

“Les choses repetees, redemandees, plaisent”

“Favorite things, enjoyed, savored, experienced, and repeated, bring rare and special pleasure.”
Since the seventies, legendary international art dealer Martin Muller has gathered a stunning roster of artists to his San Francisco gallery, Modernism. He was the first West Coast gallery to exhibit Kasimir Malevich, and the first in Northern California to show Andy Warhol. More than 300 exhibitions have encompassed Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Vorticism, German Expressionism, and foremost, the Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1930.

Muller has attracted a superbly curated list of artists (John Register, Peter Lodato, Valentin Popov, Charles Arnoldi, Gottfried Helnwein, Naomie Kremer and 50 more) as well as a passionate, curious, devoted and loyal clientele and fans around the world.

Martin has many qualities his friends adore and appreciate. He’s a romantic, he entertains generously, he is not pretentious, and he’s charming and witty. But best of all, if you are one of his artists or one of his inner circle, every August you receive a hand-painted and collaged post card, a miniature work of art to save in an album.

The Hotel Belles-Rives was built in the thirties around the residence where F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda swam and sunbathed and entertained friends in the twenties (Villa St-Louis)... Over many decades, the Estene family, which still owns the hotel, has protected the grace and legacy and today it is a shrine to Fitzgerald, the twenties and thirties, and a certain art-de-vivre and joie-de-vivre from that period.

“Already as a child, I used to spend part of the summer in Juan-les-Pins, a small Mediterranean town located between Nice and Cannes,” Muller told me by phone from Paris, in a conversation that we later continued in Venice. “By my mid-thirties, spending the end of the summer at the Belles-Rives became an annual ritual, an essential stop. I dream of it all year. It’s like going home. It is a magical place, infused with an elegant style and glamour reminiscent of the 1920s.”

Muller continued, “Unlike many nearby palaces that are now crowded with Russian oligarchs, Middle-Eastern oil barons, and international movie and rock stars, the Belles Rives has managed to retain a certain Proustian charm. It is a family place of another era, elegant but understated. It is as if time has stopped. It is far away from the otherwise omnipresent loudness of bling-bling”.

“Orgues, calme et volupte”

Muller always reserves the same room, #67, which has a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean and the small cove in front of the hotel, protected by a breakwater.

“I am there for a sense of ‘times past’ and to take a step back,” said Muller. “I savor the privacy, the sense of being away from the crowd. I savor also the sweet sea breeze most of the day in my room, listening to music, reading, writing and making small artworks, most of the time in the form of postcards.”

With windows wide open, the light, Muller, the art dealer, senses the air and light loved so much by Matisse, bathing the space, the glorious and unobstructed view of the sea, the art deco furnishings, create a perfect and sensual stage conducive to restorative daydreaming.
“Noon dominated sea and sky—even the while line of Cannes five miles off, had faded to a mirage of what was fresh and cool. It seemed there was no life anywhere in all this expanse of coast except under the filtered sunlight of those umbrellas, where something went on amid the color and the murmur.”—From ‘Tender is the Night’, by F. Scott Fitzgerald 1933.

Photographs above, by Jean-Michel Sordello, show Martin Muller wearing a bespoke seersucker suite in his favored Belles Rives suite, #67, with is favorite desk arranged with his books, watercolors, inks, brushes, pens and pencils—and post cards ready for collaging, painting, and stamping.

Remembrance of Times Passed
The Hotel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins

In June, I had the good fortune to be researching Matisse and Picasso in the South of France (more of those delights in future blogs).

And through great luck and perhaps fate, I ended up at the Hotel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins near Cap d’Antibes. This is where my dear friend art dealer Martin Muller retreats each August—and from where I receive his postcards.

The hotel has great architectural significance and is a listed building, with many of the original murals, furniture, lighting, and fixtures designed in the thirties.

Recent discreet and artful restoration by designer Olivier Antoine spruced up the color scheme, adding new fresco in the thirties style, freshening the burled woods and figured velvets, and adding chandeliers in bronze and alabaster to illuminate the original cornices, and elegant wrought iron doors with brass handles to frame the entry.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda and their pals lingered on the beach, swam out into the Mediterranean, and gathered a cast of characters who inspired ‘Tender is the Night’.
“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about halfway between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-colored hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short-dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade it was almost deserted after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bungalows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen villas are visible among the massed pines.”—From ‘Tender is the Night’’, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1933.
A member of the third generation of this family, the charming and low-key Marianne Estène-Chauvin, is now the proprietor of the establishment. She told me more about what had happened at this villa, how her grandfather has acquired the Fitzgerald house and turned it into a hotel, enlarging it over the years.

During World War II, various marauders took over much of the Cote d'Azur, and the Belle Rives was grabbed from the Estène family. The place fell into disrepair during the war years. When he was able to return safely, Boma Estène came back to pick up the pieces and regain ownership.

The Estène family has taken great care to preserve the hotel's poetic 1930s style, with its original Art Deco furniture, a variety of Cubist paintings, and some decor dating from the hotel's days as Fitgerald's Villa St-Louis.

Each accomodation of the 43-room/suite hotel has its own character. The effect, however, is cohesive and charming. Room #78, on the top floor, has a light-hearted Art Deco feeling with a color scheme of pale blue and yellow. It is one of six suites with dramatic bay windows. Room #50, in palest apricot has a private terrace. Suite #95 has a graceful balcony.

All the rooms have marble bathrooms in a color that was described to me as ‘Cuisse de Nymphe Emue’ (Thigh of an aroused nymph). It’s a soft warm beige. Some rooms are in the Madeleine Castaing style, and others offer a wink to Christian Berard, lightly rendered.

I’ve already dropped the names of the Fitzgeralds, and the hotel was visited in the early days by everyone I'd love to meet—Pablo Picasso (and his mother), Paloma Picasso (and her mother, Francoise Gilot), and Hemingway. Let’s not stop there: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Josephine Baker, Cab Calloway, Helmut Newton and his wife Alice Springs (real name June), Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Miles Davis, Edith Piaf, and Charles Trenet (of course) have been guests.

The Hotel Belles Rives recently welcomed the highly acclaimed chef, Alain Llorca, who with great panache took over the kitchens. His virtuoso talent brings dazzle to the glamorous La Passagere restaurant.

Llorca’s refined and inventive cuisine is inspired by classic Mediterranean and Spanish culinary traditions. It is resolutely and creatively seasonal, presenting the best of the day’s catch and the most exquisite fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. His emphasis is always on the sea—it’s a blue vision just beyond the terrace—so he puts on the plate both a summer and a winter version of bouillabaisse, made with precision and a sense of modernity.

Imagine starting with his witty amuse-bouche, a foie-gras bonbon. It’s a one-bite wonder, a tiny lozenge of creamy foie-gras ‘wrapped’ in crisp spun sugar just like a candy.

A recent menu in Picasso’s honor included a deconstructed pizza (witty), saddle of lamb, and a chocolate confection with exquisite fruit, 90 euro, per person, drinks extra.

Selections might include John Dory cooked paella-style, or perhaps Pyrenees pigeon with roasted hazelnuts and a coffee sauce. A Brittany lobster spiked with verbena is served with ‘Grandma’s potatoes”. Llorca pays homage to French regional favorites, yet each feels of today, with a light touch.

Desserts, including an iced red berry cheesecake served in a shot glass, and dark chocolate shell with silver leaf, with exotic fruit, are a little frivolous and perfect for this seaside setting.

During dinner, as a summer storm and lighting raged far out to sea, I walked through to the Fizgerald piano bar and asked the pianist, Thierry Graziano, to play ‘La Mer’ (the Charles Trenet song, not the Debussy piece.) As the first slow and tender notes sounded from the old black Baldwin, I walked out onto the terrace and watched lights flickering across the sea.

Somewhere at a slight distance, I could hear the laughter of Scott and Zelda, Champagne corks popping, and even the piano music seemed to be coming from another time. That’s the magic of the Belles Rives.

In one corner of the foyer, near the entrance to the Bar Fitzgerald is a wall-mounted marble plaque with F. Scott Fitzgerald's name and quote (from a letter home) that reads: 

"With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Cannes and Nice) I'm happier than I've been for years. It's one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one's life seems to be going well." 
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, March 15, 1926, Juan-les-Pins

Hotel Belles Rives, 33, blvd Edouard Baudoin, Juan-les-Pins/ Cap d’Antibes. Phone 33 (0)4 93 61 02 79 For more information on rates and reservations: 
To find out more about the region, its museums and galleries, its architecture, and artists who lived and painted in the region:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Designer I Love: The Great Orlando — Pure Genius

In his dramatic Pacific Heights apartment, San Francisco designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy pared down the interior architecture to create a dynamic gallery for the crème de la crème of his art and antiques collections.

Come with me for a visit to Orlando’s penthouse in Pacific Heights, San Francisco. As it happens he is a five-minute walk from where I live, and I can almost peer into his windows from my roof. No need…I can hop over for a visit. Come with me now.

Three years ago, I wrote a book about Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, the great San Francisco interior design/architect. Rizzoli was the publisher. The book, ‘Orlando Diaz-Azcuy’ went into a second printing, and has been very well-received.

San Francisco interior designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy is a passionate modernist at heart. So it’s not surprising that after living in a stately Spanish Revival house in St. Francis Wood for a decade he became restless and started hunting for a crisp pared-down modern apartment.

“I wanted an apartment in a contemporary building that was in the right location, and not far from my downtown office,” said the award-winning designer, who found his new location overlooking Lafayette Park, and facing south with all-day sun, views of the ocean in the distance.

Diaz-Azcuy, who founded Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Design Associates in 1987, is recognized as one of the top designers in the country. He is a partner with the highly talented David Oldroyd (I published his house on THE STYLE SALONISTE…find it in the archive), as well as Greg Stewart.

Their Post Street firm works on top commissions for residential and commercial interiors, and Diaz-Azcuy designs highly successful collections for companies like San Francisco-based McGuire Furniture Company. After more than 40 years in the design business, the Cuban-born designer continues to dazzle.

“San Francisco is a challenging place for a modernist to find an apartment, as the city has only a handful of great contemporary apartment buildings, so I searched for two years,” said Diaz-Azcuy. “Finally I discovered this apartment with ten-foot ceilings and views from the Pacific Ocean to the East Bay, and I bought it on the spot” said the designer. 

A perfectionist, Diaz-Azcuy immediately planned a ceiling-to-floor redesign of his apartment, which is on the 17th floor of a sixties building.

“The apartment was a standard 3-bedroom, with lowered ceilings, and all chopped up into small rooms,” recalled Diaz-Azcuy.

“I didn’t want the interior architecture to deny that it’s in a high-rise,” he said. “My goal was to achieve a light, fresh-air, California feeling.”

He stripped down the interior architecture to make it feel calm, very minimal. No baseboards, no trim, no moldings.

“But I have to have luxury, too,” he noted. “That comes from the antiques and the art and sumptuous fabrics.”

Walls throughout the apartment are sprayed with eggshell-finish white paint for a smooth, brush-free effect. Mechanicals and wiring are concealed in sections of lowered ceilings that run along the hallway. He even minimized the doors by concealing frames in the walls.

A wall of glass windows and sliding doors runs along the south-facing apartment, which is now re-shaped into two bedrooms, a comfortable study, a large living room with an adjacent dining room, and a long broad hallway.

Floors throughout the house are a soft pale blue-gray Blue Lagoon limestone with a flamed finish. The apartment has sub-floor radiant heat.

“I am always tempted to see how simple I can make drywall look, and I am seldom tempted to embellish,” said Diaz-Azcuy.

The spacious, open rooms are the ultimate thrill for a modernist, and the interiors are dazzlingly edited.

“I like a sense of voluptuousness,” said Diaz-Azcuy. “I love the idea of monastic interiors but the heart desires beautiful things to look at and touch. I believe in superb comfort. I have a great appetite for modern furniture, but I use them as an accent, with upholstered pieces to actually relax on.”

All this simplicity makes a sumptuous background for his collections of art and antiques. Eccentricity, contrasts and surprises in furniture and art are a key to the designer’s confident style.

“Rough and smooth objects, elaborate and modern classic furniture, curvy and straight chairs, antique and modern, these are juxtapositions I make almost subliminally,” noted Diaz-Azcuy. “A room that’s all one style—all modern, totally monochromatic, all one period—lacks individuality.

In the living room, he combined a Roman-style daybed upholstered with silk velvet, with a quirky black lacquered Art Décor chair with ball feet, along with a narrow table made with petrified wood.

In another corner, a pair of Mies van der Rohe tan leather tufted ottomans is lined up near a sculptural 1930 Fritz Henningsen leather and teak armchair.

For the dining room, Diaz-Azcuy designed a tablecloth of saffron and tangerine shot silk. Walls are animated with Deborah Oropallo works of art. He also displayed his museum-quality collection of Josef Hoffmann Wiener Werkstatte hammered silver urns, vases, wine-bottle stoppers, bowls, and decorative objects.

Diaz-Azcuy said that even growing up in western Cuba, he was tuned in to design and architecture.

“Havana in the sixties was very cosmopolitan and my college student accommodations there were in an elegant Beaux-Arts inspired building,” he noted. “There were Neutra houses built in Cuba. It was a very stimulating atmosphere for a young design aficionado.”

At the age of 22, Diaz-Azcuy was sent by his family to study architecture at Catholic University in Washington DC.

He went on to complete a master’s degree in landscape architecture and city and regional planning from the University of California at Berkeley.

“ I was exposed to modernism subliminally as a child,” he said. “Cuban houses in smaller towns were just a white cube with perhaps one touch of exuberant color and a chandelier. It’s a pattern I’ve returned to in my apartment.”

This early desire for simplicity with a controlled color palette and concern for the minutest detail of design and perhaps the splash of vivid color and a dash of luxury, have played out in all of his designs. Diaz-Azcuy said he has never liked excess in interiors, preferring simplicity with a touch of glamour.

For the moment, the apartment is bliss for the designer.

“For my clients I can design any style of interiors ranging from very traditional to lofts, country houses, a pied-a-terre, offices, a hotel, but for myself it’s a modern approach,” said the designer. “For now, I find these rooms restful, calm, and personal, but I know the apartment will change and evolve.”

“The daily hazard of being a decorator is that I am constantly exposed to the best art, amazing sculpture, the top collections, auctions, antiques and accessories,” said Diaz-Azcuy. “I buy pieces for their innate beauty, quality and spirit. I know I’ll see something exceptional. In six months, the apartment will look quite different.” 

The Wisdom of Orland0

I asked Orlando for his thoughts about white in design. Here’s what he told me:


DDS: You have always loved to work with white. For you it is powerful.

ODA: There is nothing more beautiful than white. I love white linen. I like muted white walls. I like white jackets, white shirts. For me, white soothes my soul. I don’t use it because it is hot but because it is eternal. In my apartment I have a wall of windows that I have covered with sheer Irish linen that billows in a slight breeze. It indicates emotion, air, light, purity, and a sense of nature outside the window. White has also been associated with Modernism—and used frequently by Le Corbusier, Mies, Pei, Richard Meier, and rigorously by John Paulson.

Orlando has wardrobes of beautifully tailored jackets and shirts in his San Francisco, and in his New York apartment overlooking the East River. Above, he’s photographed at home…wearing black.

White in my interiors gives me the flexibility to change everything. I’m always moving new paintings and new sculpture in and out of my apartment.

DDS: Which white paints do you like?

My favorite white is ‘Soda’, which I developed for Fuller paints 25 years ago. It is no longer available but Benjamin Moore ‘Cloud White, OC-130, is very close. It’s slightly warm. I also like Benjamin Moore OC-65 for a pure white. But I develop custom colors for all of my clients, and for myself, especially here in the apartment, I’ve mixed all paints, totally custom. I think the success of paint application is in the hands of a paint craftsman. And I don’t deny the quality of Donald Kaufman paints, or Farrow & Ball.

DDS: Living with white.

A white and ivory color palette makes my happy and enhances everything in the rooms, no matter the style or mood. Generally I find it tranquil, calm.

I like the flexibility offered by white or pale ivory walls. In San Francisco we have bright light reflecting off the ocean and in the moisture of our ocean air. White is luxurious, pure, exciting, and with its reflective power and energy it is better than any color.

Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Talks on Design

Orlando told me some of his secrets—and I’m sharing them with you for inspiration.

“Design needs juxtaposition and contrast to come alive. Mundane things often enliven luxurious décor, just as quiet phrasing and bass notes add balance to coloratura opera scores. Décor should not be unremittingly rich or minimal. You don’t see the beauty. In a room with museum-quality paintings or Greek antiquities, and opulent antiques, I may balance the luxury with simple white linen upholstery, bare floors or discreet and worn Oriental silk carpets, and some pared-down modern architecture.”

“People think I never use color, but it isn’t true. I seldom use pattern, but I love color! In Cuba, as a teenager, I once painted my parents’ living room shocking pink. I spend hours working on color schemes. Many people are not tuned to tone-on-tone colors, or a carefully selected and calibrated collection of whites, and they don’t notice subtlety. Soft, neutral, barely-there colors are still colors. Some of our most exciting projects are true color inspiration. But I always look for the unusual shade, tone or hue. I’m happiest working with colors you can’t exactly name—pale cornflower blue, blush pink, blue-gray, an unusual blue dashed with gold.”

“The most successful design is a result of rigorous, disciplined editing. Simple and successful interiors are always the result of taking out and not putting in more things. A complex solution brought down to the minimal expression gets to the soul of the solution.”

“Contrast emphasizes the special attributes of any interior. Rough and smooth, textured and plain, curvy and straight, rich and rustic. A room that’s all one note—all modern, totally monochromatic, all one period—lacks individuality.

“Control and use of light are the strongest elements of my design. Light –natural and artificial--creates mood, a sense of comfort and well-being, and makes an interior totally functional.” 

“An interior without accessories it is an interior without expression. While I am known for controlled, tailored and very polished interiors, I personally appreciate eccentricity, and the jolt of the unexpected. Provocative conceptual art, found objects, garden flowers, fine old paintings, contemporary sculpture. Well-edited collections, and have course a bookcase stacked with books, make a room come to life.”



Images of Orlando’s penthouse: David Duncan Livingston,

Portrait of Orlando in white jacket: Tim Street-Porter,

Portrait of Orlando in black shirt: Peter Tjahjadi:

Monday, February 10, 2014

San Francisco Ballet is Tutu Divine: The Triumph of Beauty

Pirouettes and Passion: The 2014 season of the San Francisco Ballet has just opened, and the fireworks are starting. Each program is thrilling and original. Come and read all the details and find a program you’ll love.

Recently, I attended the opening night gala with performances of extraordinary perfection by the San Francisco Ballet at the gilded San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. The exquisitely polished and emotionally driven Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith, Lorena Feijoo, and Vitor Luiz brought tears to my eyes. Breath-taking.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Liang’s Finding Light

I’ve attended programs of the San Francisco Ballet for many years, and always adore the opening gala followed by seasons of innovation and reinvention of classic dance. Performances are imbued with captivating lyricism.

Every San Francisco Ballet dancer on stage expresses exquisite control and creativity, utter lissome beauty and heightened degree of emotional intelligence. Perfection is rare in any art form, and at moments I felt inspired, giddy and thrilled.

The gates of perception were thrown open.

No wonder many think the San Francisco Ballet is the best company in the world. (Of course, I am…more than a little biased.)

San Francisco Ballet in McGregor's Borderlands.

San Francisco Ballet in McGregor's Borderlands.

San Francisco Ballet in Ratmansky's From Foreign Lands.

The Importance of Feeding the Eye and Heart

I studied ballet for some years, and my parents filled my week with piano lessons from the great and divine Miss Maisie Kilkelly, and art instruction by the charismatic Robert Brett. 

I’ve been attending ballet performances since I was six, when my parents took me to see the Royal Ballet perform ‘Swan Lake’. This highly trained and superb company at various times included Margot Fonteyn and Rudi Nureyev.

Perhaps—no doubt—part of my pure enjoyment of ballet is that its rhythms and styles and music and instruction are part of my memory.

This same inspiration and structure, wild creativity balanced with discipline, still frame my life. “Be orderly in your life so that you can be creative and free in your creation,” said Gustav Flaubert.

Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov's Firebird.

Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov's Firebird.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Ghosts.

The brain, the eye, the body, the skin, the ears all love and respond to beauty and perfection, strange movements forward, a glance back, and experimental as well as classical artistry and creativity. I attend the season of the San Francisco Opera, and dash to performances in Paris and London and where-ever I travel. Art is as essential as air.

Writers and editors and architects and musicians and interior designers must be alert to all other arts. Designers can be inspired by ballet. Constant exposure to the arts, to classic and avant-garde culture, to opera and art and music of all kinds is essential to designers and artists, architects and antique dealers, creators, writers, composers and style-setters in every field. There’s the performance, but also the interplay of all the disciplines that create an opera or ballet or design or sculpture. So much to learn, to be inspired by.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Cinderella.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Cinderella.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Cinderella.

“The company delivers performances where nothing is more engrossing than the choreography. The sense of selflessness is a crucial characteristic of good Balanchine style,” wrote New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay, in Feb 14’s edition. “The San Francisco dancers are a remarkably unmannered, elegant and grown-up company. The adult quality is impressive. Ballet elsewhere so often looks to be a matter for girls and boys.”

San Francisco Ballet 2014 Season Details 

Highlights include an all-new, full-evening work by
 Alexei Ratmansky, the encore presentation of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella, plus three world premieres.

SF Ballet’s 2014 Repertory Season will include the presentation of two full-length works, including the revival of SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s Giselle and the encore presentation of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella.

In addition, SF Ballet will present the West Coast premiere of a full-evening trilogy by acclaimed choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.

The season also includes world premieres by Val Caniparoli, Liam Scarlett, and Tomasson, and features works by choreographers such as George Balanchine, Serge Lifar, Natalia Makarova, Wayne McGregor, Mark Morris, Yuri Possokhov, and Jerome Robbins.

San Francisco Ballet in Lifar's Suite en Blanc.

San Francisco Ballet in Lifar's Suite en Blanc.
Lorena Feijoo and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson's The Fifth Season.

The season will consist of eight programs performed in alternating repertory, to May 11.

San Francisco Ballet in Ratmansky's From Foreign Lands.

San Francisco Ballet in Ratmansky's From Foreign Lands.

PROGRAM 2 opens Tuesday, February 18 with the reprise of Ratmansky’s From Foreign Lands, set to the music of Moritz Moszkowski. The work, which premiered on SF Ballet’s 2013 Repertory Season and offers charming dances from a myriad of countries, was performed to acclaim.

In addition, SF Ballet will reprise McGregor’s Borderlands, which premiered on the 2013 Repertory Season. Set to the music of Joel Cadbury and Paul Stoney, the work was inspired by German-American artist Josef Albers and represents McGregor’s first commission for SF Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Ghosts.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Ghosts.

PROGRAM 3 opens Thursday, February 20 with Wheeldon’s Ghosts, set to an original score by C.F. Kip Winger, which premiered on the Company’s 2010 Repertory Season and was last performed in London on tour in 2012. Of the work for 17 dancers, The London Independent noted, “Ghosts is original and astonishingly atmospheric…utterly gripping.” The program also includes the classic “The Kingdom of the Shades” from La Bayadère, Act II, choreographed by dance legend Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa. The plotless excerpt offers a stunning showcase for a large corps, a principal couple, and three soloists. The original full-length version of the ballet was first performed in Russia in 1877, but it was only later in the 1960’s that “The Kingdom of the Shades” was seen by audiences in the West. Makarova first staged “The Kingdom of the Shades” for ABT in 1974 and the Company first performed her choreography of the famous scene in 2000. The program also includes Possokhov’s dramatic Firebird, which premiered on SF Ballet’s 2007 Repertory Season (in 2003, Possokhov staged a completely different production of Firebird for Oregon Ballet Theatre.) The original Firebird, set to a score by Igor Stravinsky and choreographed by Michel Fokine, was first performed in 1910 by the Ballets Russes. Of Possokhov’s production, which includes scenic design by Yuri Zhukov and costume design by Sandra Woodall, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that “…the ensemble moments in this “Firebird” are filled with an exuberance to match Stravinsky’s majestic score.”

Maria Kochetkova in Wheeldon's Cinderella.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Cinderella.

PROGRAM 4 opens Tuesday, March 11 with the return of Wheeldon’s critically acclaimed Cinderella, a co-production with Dutch National Ballet. The work was first performed in December 2012 by the Dutch company, with SF Ballet presenting the U.S. premiere of the work this May as part of its 2013 Repertory Season. Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, The Financial Times proclaimed, “[This production is]…the most dramatically convincing Cinderella in ballet, a triumph of storytelling and stage design firmly in touch with the 21st century.” Set to a score by Sergei Prokofiev and inspired by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, the work features a libretto by Craig Lucas, a renowned Tony Award nominated playwright, director, and screenwriter, known for, among other works, Prelude to a Kiss and Light in the Piazza. Cinderella also features scenic and costume design by Julian Crouch, renowned for his work with the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway; lighting design by Natasha Katz; tree and carriage sequence direction/design by Obie Award winner Basil Twist; and projection design by Daniel Brodie.

American Ballet Theatre in Ratmansky's Symphony #9.

American Ballet Theatre in Ratmansky's Symphony #9.

PROGRAM 5 opens Wednesday, April 2 with the West Coast premiere of a full-evening trilogy by ABT Artist-in-Residence Alexei Ratmansky, set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich. The work also features scenic design by George Tsypin, costume design by Keso Dekker, and lighting design by Jennifer Tipton. 

San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov's The Rite of Spring.

San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov's The Rite of Spring.

PROGRAM 6 opens Friday, April 4 with the 20th anniversary presentation of Morris’ Maelstrom, first premiered by San Francisco Ballet in 1994, and set to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. The work for 14 dancers was the first ballet choreographed for the Company by Morris and was last performed by SF Ballet in 2005. 

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith In Tomasson's The Fifth Season.

Frances Chung and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson's The Fifth Season.

PROGRAM 7 opens Tuesday, April 29 with Tomasson’s The Fifth Season, which had its premiere by SF Ballet on the 2006 Repertory Season. Set to the music of Karl Jenkins, the work for 14 dancers was last performed on the 2012 Repertory Season. SF Ballet will also present a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, who was appointed artist-in-residence at The Royal Ballet at the young age of 26. A former dancer with that company, Scarlett has choreographed works in England and for Miami City Ballet. This will be his first work for SF Ballet. Performed by SF Ballet for the first time on the 2013 Repertory Season, Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc, set to the music of Édouard Lalo, was premiered by Paris Opéra Ballet in 1943. The plotless ballet is a series of divertissements in the neoclassical style, showcases ten principals, seven soloists, and twenty corps de ballet dancers.

Muriel Maffre and Tiit Helimets in Balanchine's Agon (2007).

Kristina Lind and Vito Mazzeo in Robbins' Glass Pieces.

San Francisco Ballet in Robbins' Glass Pieces.

San Francisco Ballet in Robbins' Glass Pieces.

PROGRAM 8 opens Thursday, May 1 with Balanchine’s Agon, created in 1957, is set to the music of Stravinsky and was last performed in its entirety by SF Ballet on tour in 2002. The work, a post-modern masterpiece for 12 dancers, was first performed by the Company in 1976. Last performed by SF Ballet in 1986, Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet was created in 1966 for New York City Ballet. The work is set to Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 by Johannes Brahms (later orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg in 1937). The program concludes with Robbins’ Glass Pieces, set to a score by Philip Glass.

During the 2014 Repertory Season, the Company will perform a total of 61 performances. The SF Ballet Orchestra will accompany all programs.

The San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala

Ballet fans, tech geniuses and the crème de la crème of San Francisco society pirouetted and preened in the baroque splendor of City Hall for the San Francisco Ballet company’s season opening gala on January 22.

Denise Hale in Gianfranco Ferre couture

Yurie Pascarella in Andrew GN couture gown

O.J. Shansby

Charlotte Shultz in Carolina Herrera

Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki in Donald Deal

Dede Wilsey in Oscar de la Renta

The glittering evening was themed ‘Phenomenal’ and party décor designer Riccardo Benavides festooned the City Hall rotunda with thirty-feet high digitized images of dancers, with ghostly three-dimensional gold dance figures floating above the black-tie gathering.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the new choreography this evening, especially Yuan Yuan Tan’s piece with Damian Smith,” said ballet benefactor, O.J. Shansby, nibbling on lobster salad with Dede Wilsey and Yurie Pascarella.

Artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s twelve vignettes from the season’s repertoire included an exquisite pas de cinq from the company’s new production of Giselle, a jazz-beat Gershwin number, a dash of Shostakovich, and a charming Bach/African beat solo by Frances Chung.

Colin Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Erin Glen in Valentino

Komal Shah in Dennis Basso couture

“I wanted a program that is artistically challenging and that celebrates the art of dance,” said Tomasson.

Standing ovations and wild applause followed the sultry tango-style performance of ‘Talk to Her’ by Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz, company favorites, to orchestral music by Alberto Iglesias. More frenzied whistling and whooping followed the U.S. premiere of the ethereal ‘Finding Light’ by Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith to a haunting Vivaldi adagio.

San Francisco Ballet is America’s oldest professional ballet company and the company was deemed ‘a national treasure’ recently by The New York Times.

Yuan Yuan Tan

Also in the ballet-mad crush were Nancy and Paul Pelosi, Denise Hale, Dede Wilsey, Carolyn Chang, Akiko Yamazaki, Charlotte Shultz, Deepa Pakianathan, Erin Glenn, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, Joy Bianchi, Rosemary Baker, de Young Museum head Colin Bailey, and Alex Chases and Craig Card.

The evening raised $2.4 million for the company’s education fund.

Party images by DREW ALTIZER,

Ballet images courtesy the San Francisco Ballet, used with express permission. Photos are copyright Erik Tomasson and Rosalie O'Connor.

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San Francisco Ballet, the oldest professional ballet company in America, has emerged as a world-class arts organization since it was founded as the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1933. Initially, its primary purpose was to train dancers to appear in lavish, full-length opera productions. The company now performs it repertoire from January to May each year in San Francisco, and then presents programs around the world, including, recently, in Paris and in Beijing, to great acclaim.