Possokhov's “. . . two united in a single soul . . .” Highlights San Francisco Ballet's Lyric Voices


Yuri Possokhov's long list of creative choreography has continued to please audiences with original works, such as Swimmer and Magrittomania, created for San Francisco Ballet. Possokhov's latest world premiere ". . . two united in a single soul . . ." takes its title from a line in Ovid's Metamorphosis about the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. As Possokhov sees it, the story reveals a greater observation of humanity. "To fall in love with yourself, and yet never to be able to take it any further—I think as a human being, that's tragic," Possokhov says. "I think, inside, all men have a side of Narcissus. Actually, I think everyone has some of this—especially ballet dancers."

San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Possokhov's ". . . two united in a single soul . . .". (© Erik Tomasson)
San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Possokhov's ". . . two united in a single soul . . .". (© Erik Tomasson)

The new ballet shares San Francisco Ballet's Program 5, Lyric Voices, with the return of the popular Christopher Wheeldon's Bound To and Trey McIntyre's Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem.

Possokhov's ballet includes a newly commissioned score by Daria Novo (Novoliantceva), a Technology and Applied Composition faculty member at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Novo's score includes music by Handel in contemporary arrangement with beats, synths, and sound effects with extended orchestration, as well as her own composition. The score requires a full orchestra, a pianist playing on both harpsichord and keyboard, while a second pianist triggers a click track series of audio cues to synchronize sound recordings for the conductor and tape recording, as well as playing with sampled instruments. Countertenors Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen of San Francisco Opera and Matheus Coura perform in rotation.

Possokhov credits the inspiration for this ballet to the 1994 film "Farinelli," a biographical drama about the 18th-century castrato Carlo Broschi. "It's the combination of the dancing and the singing that I love so much" Possokhov says. "I knew I wanted voice, and I'm fond of countertenors. The ballet is set nowhere; it's just space-somewhere, somehow. And the voice is like the echo in the myth."

". . . two united in a single soul . . ." builds on Possokhov's earlier ergo ubi NARCISSUM per devia rura vagantem, which he choreographed for the Royal Danish Ballet in 2012. Both works include scores sung by contertenors. In this production Narcissus is placed with twelve other dancers, scenic design is by Ben Pierce, costume design by Christopher Read, and lighting design by Jim French.

The myth of Narcissus is a recurring ballet theme. In addition to Possokhov's work for the Royal Danish Ballet, other choreographic works inspired by the myth have included Cathy Marston's dance-opera Echo and Narcissus, Yuri Smekalov's 2009 choreographic miniature Requiem for Narcissus, as well as Sergei Polunin's 2017 Narcissus and Echo. It will be interesting to see how Possokhov has carried out his creative vision of this classic motif.

San Francisco Ballet's Lyric Voices runs from March 27 through April 7 at San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. For more information, see San Francisco Ballet.