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American Ballet Theatre: Coppélia

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American Ballet Theatre

Ballet in Three Acts

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 20, 2011

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Coppélia, Ballet in Three Acts (1997): Original Staging by Arthur Saint-Leon, Staged and directed by Frederic Franklin after Nicholas Sergeyev, Music by Leo Delibes, Scenery by Tony Straiges, Costumes by Patricia Zipprodt, Lighting by Brad Fields.

Cast on June 18, 2011:

Conductor: David LaMarche
Performed by Paloma Herrera as Swanilda, Angel Corella as Franz, Victor Barbee as Dr. Coppélius, Roddy Doble as Burgomaster, Caroline Duprot as Coppélia, Gemma Bond as Lead Mazurka Lady, Christine Shevchenko, Blaine Hoven, and the Company as Mazurka and Czardas, Luis Ribagorda as Harlequin Doll, Arron Scott as Chinese Doll, Calvin Royal as Astrologer Doll, April Giangeruso as Spanish Doll, Lauren Post as Scottish Doll, Stella Abrera as Dawn, Maria Riccetto as Prayer, and the Company as Swanilda’s Friends and Dance of the Hours.

Cast on June 20, 2011:

Conductor: Charles Barker
Performed by Natalia Osipova as Swanilda, Daniil Simkin as Franz, roman Zhurbin as Dr. Coppélius, Vitali Krauchenka as Burgomaster, Caroline Duprot as Coppélia, Luciana Paris as Lead Mazurka Lady, Devon Teuscher, Alexandre Hammoudi, and the Company as Mazurka and Czardas, Roddy Doble as Harlequin Doll, Jeffrey Golladay as Chinese Doll, Jose Sebastian as Astrologer Doll, Isadora Loyola as Spanish Doll, Skylar Brandt as Scottish Doll, Simone Messmer as Dawn, Hee Seo as Prayer, and the Company as Swanilda’s Friends and Dance of the Hours.

I was quite surprised to realize that I hadn’t seen this Ballet Theatre production, although I’ve seen Coppélia elsewhere, in recent years, including across the Plaza. This Frederic Franklin version premiered in 1997, with Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella as Swanilda and Franz, so it’s no wonder they were decidedly the stronger couple on the two nights above. Coppélia premiered as a ballet in 1870, choreographed by Saint-Leon, at the opera house in Paris. It tells the tale of a doll, Coppélia, created by Dr. Coppélius, a shopkeeper with life-sized exotic dolls. The town is “small and European”, but I always assumed it’s in Austria or Germany. Swanilda loves Franz, wants to marry, and Franz is infatuated with Coppélia, thinking she’s a gorgeous girl, reading on a balcony. She never looks up or down, is still as wood. Swanilda is jealous, brings her friends into the shop, when Coppélius drops his key, and Franz climbs a ladder and enters as well. The dolls come alive with some cranking of keys, and all is revealed, to everyone’s delight. The town’s Burgomaster gives Swanilda and Franz a dowry, and they are married. Coppélius gets a bag of gold for his broken dolls, and the whole town dances.

As mentioned above, I saw two casts, and the June 18 cast was incomparable. Ms. Herrera was stunning, in fine form, and visibly thrilled to be dancing with Mr. Corella, whose performances have become so rare. Their flirtations were seasoned, anticipated, in sync. Ms. Herrera is from Argentina, and Mr. Corella from Spain. The chemistry was palpable. Mr. Corella leaped like a lion and presented his signature faster-then-slower spins that leave the viewer dizzy with delight. Ballet Theatre fans adore him, and he often glanced and grinned straight into the House. Everything in his performance was spectacular, that is, like a true spectacle. Without charisma and bonded partnering, a story ballet is flat and disappointing. Nothing seems authentic or first rate. Here, tonight, both Ms. Herrera and Mr. Corella shared charisma and bonding, even a gesture in the Act I village dance and in the Act III wedding dance led to feverish, bravura performances.

In contrast, on the 20th, Natalia Osipova and Daniil Simkin, from Russia and Eastern Europe, were sprightly, youthful, ebullient, but somewhat distant from each other. I’m not aware of any previous partnership between this duo, and they performed like very friendly strangers. There seemed no history or seasoned compatibility. Ms. Osipova dances like a fleeting feather, a fascinating ballerina. Her line is elastic, her legs reach her head, and effortlessly at that. Mr. Simkin arrived from the Ukraine last season, and he’s been a sensation. Both dancers are small boned and powerhouses. But, in comparison, I didn’t want the evening to end on the 18th, it was just so exciting. Although Mr. Corella has his own Company now in Spain, both he and Ms. Herrera have been Principals with the Company since the 1990’s. I find the problem with visiting luminaries to be not their performance (they are chosen for virtuosity) but the partnered chemistry. However, Mr. Simkin was endearing, and he’ll grow into the role. Ms. Osipova is seasoned in the role and should be partnered by Ivan Vasiliev, whom I missed this season. That duo performed together, via the Bolshoi, at the YAGP Competition in 2008, and I wrote at that time that when they ‘finished their “Flames of Paris’ pas de deux, the upstairs crowd equaled the downstairs crowd in deafening applause and shrieks.” Now that’s something to look forward to in future seasons.

Victor Barbee, the Company’s Assoc. Artistic Director, was Dr. Coppélius on the 18th, with Roman Zhurbin in the role on the 20th. They each interpreted the bumbling and crotchety persona differently, and each was entertaining and persuasive. Dawn and Prayer, two dances in the Act III wedding scene, were performed by Stella Abrera and Maria Riccetto on the 18th and Simone Messmer and Hee Seo on the 20th. Clearly the duo on the 20th was more elegant, fully resplendent, and intriguing. The Mazurkas and Czardas were propulsive on both nights, and the Dance of the Hours brought out some very poised students from the JKO School at ABT. The Act II dolls, that are wound up for in-shop dancing, were captivating both nights, with a few catching my eye. On the 18th, Calvin Royal was an intense and focused Astrologer Doll, with Arron Scott fascinating as the Chinese Doll. On the 20th, Roddy Doble was an adorable Harlequin Doll, with Skylar Brandt a polished Scottish Doll. Caroline Duprot was the doll, Coppélia, on both nights, with full focus.

Frederic Franklin’s version “after Sergeyev” is charming and refined. Mr. Franklin, himself, is a treasure, in his nineties and occasionally still dancing. Tony Straiges’ scenery is all “gingerbread house”, with bright colors, storybook-type houses, and a fantasy town square. The Act II shop interior was just as I had hoped, like stumbling into a doll-maker’s attic, really exotic. Brad Fields’ lighting certainly contrasted the expansive, outside square and the stuffy, inside shop. He kept the tones warm and inviting. Patricia Zipprodt’s costumes never overwhelm the scenery and provide space for the wide leaps inherent in the choreography. Kudos to David LaMarche and Charles Barker, who kept Leo Delibes’ luscious score so spirited and sparkling.

Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella
in "Coppélia"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Natalia Osipova and Roman Zhurbin
in "Coppélia"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

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