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New York City Ballet: Coppélia 2009

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New York City Ballet: Coppélia 2009
(NYC Ballet Website)

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Honorary Chairmen: Julia and David Koch
Managing Director, Communications, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Joe Guttridge
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 16, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Guest Conductor: David LaMarche

Coppélia (1974): Music by Léo Delibes (1869-70), Book by Charles Nuitter, after E.T.A. Hoffman’s Der Sandmann (1815), Choreography by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova after Marius Petipa (Petersburg, 1884), Scenery and Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Some Costumes Designed by Karinska, Costumes Executed by Karinska and Barbara Matera, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sterling Hyltin as Swanilda/Coppélia, Gonzalo Garcia as Frantz, Robert LaFosse as Dr. Coppélius, and the Company as Villagers, The Mayor, Swanilda’s Friends, The Automatons, The Burgomaster, Brides, Grooms, Friends, Waltz of the Golden Hours, Dawn, Prayer, Spinner, Four Jesterettes, and Discord and War. Delibes was known to illustrate action with inspiration and creativity in his ballet music.(NYCB Notes).

Coppélia is a romantic tale of a lad, Frantz, from Galicia (Austro-Hungary), who already has a lovely young lass, Swanilda, but becomes mesmerized by Coppélia, who sits on her balcony on a chair, gazing at an open book, and Frantz does not know that Dr. Coppélius, the eccentric and lonely toy maker, has built Coppélia as one of his life-size dolls, as someone he can wind up and love. This production was stylistically based on Petipa's 1884 production, which was 15 years after the premiere. Balanchine used choreography that he remembered from his days at the Maryinsky Company in St. Petersburg, Russia. For the last act, Balanchine has introduced Valkyries, as symbols of war, just as Napoleon III declared war against Prussia a few months after this ballet's original debut. This ballet, in fact, marked the passing of ballet supremacy from France to Russia. The plot of this classic ballet is danced in three Acts. Act I, with the scenery of a village square in Galicia, during a festival for a new carillon for the bell tower, enables Dr. Coppélius to introduce his new doll, Coppélia. The rough-housing, village lads playfully attack Dr. Coppélius, who drops the key to his shop, and it is found by Swanilda, who enters the shop with her friends to see who Coppélia really is. Meanwhile, Frantz climbs a ladder to visit the same Coppélia, his new object of desire. (Partial assistance of NYCB Notes).

In Act II, which takes place inside the eccentric toy shop, Swanilda and her friends are discovered by Dr. Coppélius, after they all learn that Coppélia is actually a life size doll, and after they wind up "automated" dolls, an astrologer, a juggler, an acrobat, and a "Chinaman". Dr. Coppélius drugs Frantz with a sleeping potion, after he enters, in order to animate the doll with the energy of the sleeping lad. But, Swanilda has hidden in Coppélia' s clothing and fools Dr. Coppélius into thinking that the doll has become alive. She dances with Scottish decorations and then crushes Dr. Coppélius' hopes with his discovery that the doll is actually ruined. Frantz, in his strongest attempt to win back the beloved Swanilda, proposes marriage, and she accepts. Act III is the wedding scene, with Swanilda in heavenly white, and the forlorn Dr. Coppélius a tad heavier, with new, gold coins in his pocket for his troubles. Frantz and Coppélia dance through the Village Square, during the Festival of the Bells. The bells are dedicated, followed by demonstrations of the occasions upon which the bells may yet be rung. Thus, there are special dances, by Dawn, Prayer, Spinner, Four Jesterettes, and finally Discord and War (hence the Valkyries), with swords and helmets. Finally the happy couple performs the wedding pas de deux, and the entire village erupts in a communal, festive celebration. (Partial assistance of NYCB Notes).

Tonight’s cast was well conceived, with Sterling Hyltin performing as Swanilda (and briefly as the doll-come-alive, Coppélia). Ms. Hyltin is animated, spirited, and ever so youthful, and her flirtations and playfulness with Frantz (Gonzalo Garcia) were comically melodramatic. Few can muster the quick-footed steps that Ms. Hyltin produces, rhythmically and effortlessly. Mr. Garcia was at his best in this light-hearted, full-length story ballet, and his elevation and bouncing jumps, added to the hiding-chasing antics, gave him the spotlight he’s growing into, since joining City Ballet as a principal in 2007. Together, Ms. Hyltin and Mr. Garcia romped rambunctiously through the toy-store-look-alike scenery, so suited to this toy-infused ballet. In fact, Rouben Ter-Arutunian’s sets and costumes fabricate a vision of a wonderland in old Galicia. It was delightful to see Robert LaFosse as Dr. Coppélius, bent over and walking as only an octogenarian or older could do. His mime and gestures are those of a pro, one who becomes, rather than enacts, his role.

Kristen Segin performed as the balcony Swanilda, moving in robotic tech fashion, and Sam Greenberg, Chase Finlay, Matthew Renko, and Anthony Huxley were The Automatons, the toys that come alive when Swanilda and her friends wind them up, in a visit to Dr. Coppélius’ Secret Workshop. When Frantz is drugged to sleep, Mr. Garcia was vaudevillian in this comedic scene. The Act III Village Wedding and Festival of the Bells is a full ballet on its own, and the corps is busy as Villagers, Wedding Guests, and visions in the Waltz and Discord segments; the bells are thus dedicated, with dances that illustrate the occasions on which the bells may be rung. Numerous tiny dancers from the School of American Ballet join the festivities, and it’s a wonder they were so energized so late into the evening. The sheer glee and delight on their faces won over the audience, as did Lauren King’s Dawn, Dena Abergel’s Prayer, Ashley Laracey’s Spinner, and the Four Jesterettes (Ms. Bachman, Ms. Johnson, Ms. Segin, Ms. Wellington).

The final Wedding Pas de Deux was glorious, and the program calls it Peace-Pas de Deux. In more ways than one, there was peace, as Swanilda finally got the ring she had asked for in Act I, and Frantz and Swanilda finally stopped hiding and chasing. This is a ballet for all ages, and it’s certainly a ballet for this season’s stream of economic doom. Delibes’ lush score, combined with light, lyrical choreography, nurtures and nourishes the soul. Kudos to Sterling Hyltin and Gonzalo Garcia, and kudos to Guest Conductor, David LaMarche. Under Maestro LaMarche’s baton, the Orchestra was in scintillating form, imbued with warmth and zeal.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at