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Out of the Fog, 3-21: Climate change
SF Ballet 'Mermaid' a smash of a splash

San Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan in John Neumeier's modern interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." Photo ©Erik Tomasson.

By Aimée Ts'ao
Copyright 2010 Aimée Ts'ao

SAN FRANCISCO -- Strange coincidences? First, Iceland has been going bankrupt for the past several years and last night a volcano erupted there. And here at San Francisco Ballet, under artist director Helgi Tomasson, who is Icelandic, the company seemed to be sliding into artistic stagnation. Then last night at the conclusion of the U.S. premiere of John Neumeier's 2005 work "The Little Mermaid," the audience at the War Memorial Opera House erupted into wild applause.

This production (for which Neumeier also designed the sets, costume, and lighting, and Lera Auerbach provided the music) does have a few major flaws, but I still say, if you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, "Go, it's worth it." Not since Pamela Rosenberg was director of the San Francisco Opera (2001-05) has the opera house stage been graced with a turn of the millennium European production. Rosenberg all too briefly brought this city (whose mainstream tastes tend to the very conservative) into the 21st century with frequent modern interpretations of many operas. Unfortunately, with the financial crunch, the San Francisco Opera has retreated to the tried and true productions. It is very encouraging to see Tomasson waking up to the possibilities for broadening both the dancers' and the audience's experiences.        

Neumeier's rethinking of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale definitely has some great production values and will be an audience favorite. Tickets were selling fast even before the opening and if you want to go at all this season, you'll need to book online immediately, at

I'll have more to say about the production and its performances here later, after viewing an additional cast.

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