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American Ballet Theatre: Coppelia 2014

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American Ballet Theatre

Coppélia 2014
Ballet in Three Acts

Metropolitan Opera House

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

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 30, 2014

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(Read a Synopsis of Coppélia)

Conductor: David LaMarche

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. Performed by Misty Copeland as Swanilda, Herman Cornejo as Franz, Roman Zhurbin as Dr. Coppélius, Sterling Baca as Burgomaster, Lily Wisdom as Coppélia, Gemma Bond as Lead Mazurka Lady, Devon Teuscher, Alexandre Hammoudi, and the Company as Mazurka and Czardas, Duncan Lyle as Harlequin Doll, Gabe Stone Shayer as Chinese Doll, Pascal Knopp as Astrologer Doll, Claire Davison as Spanish Doll, Gabrielle Johnson as Scottish Doll, Stella Abrera as Dawn, Yuriko Kajiya as Prayer, and the Company as Swanilda’s Friends and Dance of the Hours.

For her first, full-length lead role, I had hoped to see Misty Copeland, a Soloist, star in Giselle, or La Bayadère, or, better, Manon. Ms. Copeland is now ripe for serious, dramatic ballet leads, not just this cute role in the storybook cutout, Coppélia, staged by the late Frederic Franklin (who died recently at the age of 98, and whom I saw dancing on stage in his nineties). It seemed to diminish her star turn to roll out her debut, playing the perky love interest of Franz, a lad in a small European town, “several hundred years ago”. Ms. Copeland brought down the house, across the Plaza, at the 2014 Youth America Grand Prix Gala, in Derek Hough’s Ameska. I have also witnessed her creating a sensation in Tharp’s Sinatra Suite. This season, Ballet Theatre scheduled Coppélia for farewells (in July) and this debut, among others. Yet, the stunning virtuoso that Ms. Copeland has become, she had seemingly hundreds of avid fans packing the Met tonight, and she danced with strength and charisma.

Ms. Copeland could not have had a better partner than Herman Cornejo, as Franz, who can’t choose between Swanilda and the doll, Coppélia, who sits reading an upside down book on the balcony of Dr. Coppélius’ life-sized-doll shop. In their flirtatious capers, in the town square, Swanilda and Franz each hide, with visible adoration for one another, until Swanilda realizes Franz is enamored of the doll. Neither Swanilda nor Franz realize Coppélia’s made of ceramic and stuffing, until Swanilda brings her friends through Dr. Coppélius’ unlocked door, to discover five, wind-up dancer-dolls, in full costume: Harlequin, Chinese, Astrologer, Spanish, and Scottish. Incredibly silly antics ensue, with Franz appearing by ladder through the window, being drugged by the doll-maker, and the doll, Coppélia, turning into Swanilda, who has assumed the doll’s position on the chair, and so on. Each of the five wind-up dolls has a unique dance, although at times they all wave arms and jump up and down or twirl. I have enjoyed Coppélia as occasional entertainment, an experience that becomes more meaningful, accompanied by a wondrous child.

Mr. Cornejo was a partner extraordinaire for Ms. Copeland’s highly showcased debut, and he could not have been more dynamic or attentive. In the final wedding scene, Mr. Cornejo was superbly supportive of Ms. Copeland’s leaps and spins against his torso. He possesses outsized strength and incredible balance. His elevation, tiny leg kicks, elasticity, and springing power, from stage to air, are astounding, even still. Ms. Copeland has equal potential, but it can’t be seen from only roles like Swanilda and her debut in the brief Duo Concertant. This is a woman with tremendous talent and persona. Also showcased tonight was the character actor, also extraordinaire, Roman Zhurbin, as Dr. Coppélius. He’s bent with arthritis, hobbling and bumbling, dropping his key and evading the bullying lads in town. The role is styled in an overly silly manner, but Mr. Zhurbin made it his own. Stella Abrera was a captivating Dawn, leading the Dance of the Hours, a celebration of the town’s clock. She illuminated the stage. Yuriko Kajiya, soon to leave the Company for Houston, was a ravishing Prayer. Children of the JKO School at ABT were featured here, each expressing excitement and joy, all perfectly in sync in motion and timing.

Featured in the ballet are gorgeous mazurkas and czardas, all to Delibes’ sumptuous score. Devon Teuscher and Alexandre Hammoudi led these dances with pulse and refinement. The Corps danced in this colorful, cultural fest with a spring in their steps, winding, weaving, swirling about. Gemma Bond was a gorgeous Lead Mazurka Lady. As the doll, Coppélia, on the balcony, not moving a muscle, Lily Wisdom was a sound success. Sterling Baca was Burgomaster, paying off Dr. Coppélius in gold, to mend his dolls and shop. David LaMarche conducted the joyous Delibes score that shifts from sophisticated ensemble pageantry to spritely pranks in the square. Tony Straiges’ scenery and Patricia Zipprodt’s costumes are getting tired. I’d like to see a staging that has the elegance of Act I in Giselle, although maybe I’d just rather see another performance of Giselle. Coppélia is a fantastic first ballet to bring to schools for arts and education, and I’ve used it myself in past school workshops. Children easily relate to the plot and characters. However, for Misty Copeland’s debut, she needs an upgrade, a Giselle, a Bayadère, a Manon, or, even better, a Romeo and Juliet. Think of that, starring this duo. Kudos to all.

Misty Copeland
in "Coppélia"
Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Festival (Naim Chidiac)

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