New York City Ballet
(New York City 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 Master, Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 15, 2014
(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Guest Conductor: Andrew Litton
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, 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 Megan Fairchild as Swanilda/Coppélia, Gonzalo Garcia as Frantz, Robert La Fosse 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.
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.
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).
Another ballet, another Guest Conductor, this time Andrew Litton, who kept the orchestra magical throughout this delightful fantasy, good for kids, adults, and balletomanes. Megan Fairchild was Swanilda, performing with her onstage/offstage partner, Andrew Veyette, as Frantz. The story is detailed above. Ms. Fairchild was also briefly the doll, Coppélia, who appears to come alive, when the real doll is whisked away by Swanilda and her friends. Ms. Fairchild is animated, spirited, and ever so youthful, and her flirtations and playfulness with Frantz were comically melodramatic. Ms. Fairchild has brisk technical skills in Village Square solos and in her wedding scene.
Mr. Veyette creates his signature wide leaps and en air turns within this light-hearted, full-length story ballet, and his elevation and bouncing jumps, added to the hiding-chasing antics, gave him the spotlight much of the evening. Both Ms. Fairchild and Mr. Veyette were well 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 La Fosse 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.
Daniela Aldrich performed as the balcony doll, Coppélia, moving in robotic tech fashion, and Sebastian Villarini-Velez, Harrison Coll, Austin Bachman, and Ghaleb Kayali 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. Veyette was vaudevillian in this comedic scene. The Act III Village Wedding and Festival of the Bells is a full ballet on its own, with Erica Pereira shining in the spotlight, in the bell dedications. 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, Faye Arthur’s Prayer, Ashley Laracey’s Spinner, and the Four Jesterettes (Ms. Boisson, Ms. Dutton-O’Hara, Ms. Maxwell, and Ms. Phelan).
The final Wedding Pas de Deux was spirited, 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. Delibes’ lush score, combined with light, lyrical choreography, nurtures and nourishes the soul. Kudos to Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette. Kudos to City Ballet Orchestra, which was in scintillating form, imbued with warmth and zeal.
Megan Fairchild and Robert La Fosse
in Balanchine's "Coppélia"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik