Monthly Archives: November 2016

A TALE of TWO MUMMIES at SF’s Legion of Honor Museum

Mummies 1The ancient Egyptians longed for immortality, but the afterlife they achieved as eternally-popular museum displays may not be what they expected. At San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum, we can contemplate the mysteries of mummification in The Future of the Past: Mummies and Medicine, on view through August 26, 2018. The museum has transformed its intimate Gallery 1 into a showcase of Egyptian antiquities from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s own collection, featuring two mummies: Irethorrou, a 2600-year-old priest, and a woman called Hatason who is 500 years older. A team of scientists, Egyptologists, physicians, museum curators and conservators has explored how thse embalmed individuals lived, died, and were prepared for eternity. Rebecca Fahig and Kerstin Muller of Stanford University Medical School’s Dept. of Radiology conducted high-resolution, three-dimensional computed tomography (CT) scans of the mummies, and the resulting data

Mummies 2

was studied and interpreted by Jonathan Elias of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium.

Mummies 3The exhibit reveals information that has been gleaned about Irethorrou’s lifestyle, the society in which he lived, his religion, and the funerary beliefs of his time. The second mummy and her coffin have not fared as well and present a stark contrast to Irethorrou’s perfectly preserved body. In high-tech contrast to these ancient Egyptian practices, visitors can examine both mummies by means of an interactive “virtual dissection table.” A fascinating group of amulets and tomb furnishings is also on view.

Mummies 6In a brilliant move, the museum commissioned Los Angeles-based artist RETNA to cover the gallery walls with his signature  painted calligraphic shapes, based on Egyptian as well as Arabic, Hebrew, runic and other sources. The ghostly white writing enrgizes the space and evokes a sense of mystery akin to what the ancients must have felt in the presence of hieroglyphics (meaning “sacred writing”) Originally a graffiti artist, RETNA (born Marquis Duriel Lewis, in 1979) has built a formidable reputation as a studio painter and public artist; appropriately enough, his stage designs grace the current San Francisco Opera’s current production of Veridi’s Aida. Renee Dreyfus, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Curator of Ancient Art, explains: “The history of graffiti goes back far into the reaches of antiquity….When I look at RETNA’s words I get the same sense of power that I get when I look at hieroglyphics. He has managed to create the same feeling that I get when I walk into an Egyptian tomb.” While the interpretive panels in the exhibit are excellent, the sense of unfathomable mystery remains.


Entry to this exhibition is included with general museum admission: adults $15, seniors 65 + $10, students with current ID $6, members and youth 17 and under Free. Legion of Honor Museum, Lincoln Park, 100 34th Ave., SF, Open 9:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. Tues-Sun; open select holidays, closed most Mondays. see Legionof


Miami City Ballet’s Giselle: Love Wins

Miami City Ballet’s Giselle won the hearts of the audience, Nov. 1, at Hayes Hall, at Artis-Naples, Naples, Florida’s outstanding venue for performing arts. This presentation of the Nineteenth Century Romantic ballet could satisfy any ballet lover and made misty eyed even those who had seen Giselle and knew how it would end. MCB made the touching aspects of the story move the emotions even as their splendid technical skills drew gasps.

The leads were stellar: Tricia Albertson as Giselle; Renato Penteado as Albrecht; Didier Bramaz as Hilarion; Lauren Fadeley in her role debut as Myrtha, Queen of the Willis. Are there dance lovers who would dismiss Giselle as an old chestnut? Anyone thinking that should see these wonderful young stars. The original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot uses a particular vocabulary of classical ballet including turns in attitude–turning on the ball of one foot with the other leg lifted back and bent at the knee; tours en l’air–jumping up with legs together, spinning in the air multiple times, landing on one knee. MCB mastered the choreography so well that it seemed the natural means of communication for the dancing characters.

Hilarion is a game keeper who loves Giselle, a peasant girl who lives with her mother, Berthe. Giselle is not interested in Hilarion. Albrecht is a nobleman who comes to the village dressed in peasant clothes. He is captivated by Giselle and swears he will love her forever. Naturally, they express their mutual admiration by dancing. Hilarion sees them together; Giselle rejects him; Hilarion tries to fight with Albrecht. When Albrecht reaches for his sword, HIlarion realizes that his rival is a noble. The villagers dance more.    _GRS6297There is a wonderful Peasant Pas de Deux danced in Naples by a glowing pair of dancers, Damian Zamorano and Samantha Hope Galler.  Berthe reminds Giselle that she has a weak heart and must not overexert herself lest she become a Willi, a spirit of a betrayed maiden who died before her wedding day. A noble hunting party arrives. Hilarion reveals Albrecht’s true identity. The Duke’s daughter is revealed to be betrothed to Albrecht. Giselle goes mad with despair. This is ballet’s great mad scene. Ms Albertson was danced brilliantly in sadness the steps she had previously danced in joy. The dancing and despair kill her as her mother had feared.

madGiselleAlbrecht flees. Ms Albertson’s interpretation shows Giselle’s naive sincerity and then her horror at her fate. It was a moment that united dance and story in complete, heartbreaking theater. Don’t miss Ms Albertson and Mr Penteado in these roles.

Act II is in a forest on the banks of a lake. Giselle’s grave is there. Hilarion brings flowers. Hunters warn him of the Willis who get their revenge by forcing men to dance to their deaths. Announced by lightning, Myrtha, Queen of the Willis appears. Ms Fadeley dances with appropriate power and assurance.

MyrthaHer arabesques with majestic arm gestures embodied her royal status as the veiled Willis appear at her command. Giselle rises from her grave, Myrtha’s new subject. The Willis entrap Hilarion, surround him, and dance him to his death just as the ghostly legend promised. Mr. Bramaz is especially effective in this dramatic scene. Albrecht has also come to Giselle’s grave.   _GRS7585Giselle dares to protect him although Myrtha demands that she dance. She dances and keeps Albrecht dancing until the chimes ring in the dawn when the Willis must disappear. Mr. Penteado made a grand Albrecht with his pure lines and clean, sharp movement. He excelled as the ardent, though not truthful, lover. Albrecht tries to restrain Giselle, but the grave draws her back. Albrecht is alone, saved by the love of the girl he had misled. Love overcame lies, vengeful spirits, and betrayal. Three cheers for the power of the Romantic ballet as performed with feeling and expressive, classical technique. The ballet was partnered well by the Naples Philharmonic conducted by Gary Sheldon with sensitivity to the dance as well as the score by Adolphe Adam.

Miami City Ballet’s performance of Giselle in Naples, the night after Halloween and before All Souls’ Day was a good fit with respect for spirits we cannot define. It also demonstrated, on the night of World Series Game 6, the value of a very deep bench. The refinement, exuberance, and stage presence of the whole company made possible this success. Miami City Ballet performs Giselle at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Nov. 11-13. MCB returns to Naples on Feb. 28 and April 4 with mixed programs including works by Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Jerome Robbins, Christopher Wheeldon. Contact

Pictures are from MCB’s opening performances, in Miami, with a different cast. All photos ©Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Miami City Ballet. From top: Kleber Rebello, Dancers of Miami City Ballet, Simone Messmer (Giselle) & Rainer Krenstetter (Albrecht), Jordan-Elizabeth Long, Simone Messmer & Rainer Krenstetter.