Helene

Coppelia (Program 5)

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San Francisco Ballet will perform George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova's "Coppelia", a co-production with Pacific Northwest Ballet, from 19-27 March.

On the website, there is a link to the "Behind the scenes" trailer for the production, in which Judith Fugate, who was in the original cast as Swanhilda's friend who finds Dr. Coppelius' key and is staging the ballet as she did for PNB, and Swanhildas Vanessa Zahorian, Maria Kochetkova, and Frances Chung and Franz's Vitor Luiz, Gennadi Nedvigin, and Tamas Domitro speak and rehearse. Is that Val Caniparoli rehearsing Dr. Coppelius?

The clips are from PNB's production: Swanhilda-Mara Vinson, Franz-James Moore (who's from San Francisco), Jeffrey Stanton-Dr. Coppelius (danced with SFB before joining PNB), and Spinner-Chalnessa Eames. (Eames is wearing the black and white deco dress when Fugate talks about how she danced a third act solo at NYCB.)

Full casting isn't up yet, but will appear here when it is:

http://www.sfballet.org/performancestickets/casting.asp

There are wonderful solos for women in the third act and some juicy doll parts in the second act for men.

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Casts for the first two performances are up (sorry, can't do links on the browser I'm using at work, but Helene has provided one above):

SF Ballet Premiere

COPPÉLIA

Choreography: Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine

PROGRAM 5 Opening Night

Saturday, March 19, 2011, 8:00 PM

Swanilda: Maria Kochetkova*

Franz: Gennadi Nedvigin*

Dr. Coppelius: Damian Smith*

PROGRAM 5 Matinee

Sunday, March 20, 2011, 2:00 PM

Swanilda: Vanessa Zahorian+

Franz: Taras Domitro+

Dr. Coppelius: Ricardo Bustamante*

+premiere in this production

*Denotes premiere in role.

Casting subject to change.

I'm really glad to see Nedvigen getting an opening night; he's one of the unsung heros (heroes???) of the company. Zahorian/Domitro should be great -- they bring out the best in each other.

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Ah, that was Bustamente, not Caniparoli in the video.

I think this program is going to rock. I wish I could see it.

I'm really glad to see Nedvigen getting an opening night; he's one of the unsung heros (heroes???) of the company. Zahorian/Domitro should be great -- they bring out the best in each other.

Yes, yes, yes -- he is a beautiful dancer. I'm glad he's getting the respect of opening night -- I thought it would be Zahorian/Domitro, who were prominent in the promos -- but sad that he's not dancing the matinee, because I could have been there :(

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...I thought it would be Zahorian/Domitro, who were prominent in the promos...

Actually, the promos that I've seen were with Zahorian and Vitor Luiz (maybe Domitro was in something I missed). I'm hoping Luiz turns up with Chung; the two of them danced a good T&V together a couple of weeks ago.

Also, I'm wondering if Artem Yachmennikov is going to show up as Franz. He's danced it before elsewhere (different production, of course), and I've been surprised that he doesn't seem to have been cast in anything since the opening night Giselle. Based on what I've seen of him (that opening Giselle and a Nutcracker GPdD last year), he's a pretty good actor, with good stage presence and plenty of floppy-haired charm (think a young Hugh Grant in tights...or maybe not). I have some reservations about his overall classical technique (turns seemed to be a problem in both performances, but maybe he was just having a couple of 'off' days), but I've been hoping to see/hear what he does with Franz.

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:blushing: You're right -- it was Zahorian with Luiz in the promo.

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Casting for the entire Coppelia run:

SF Ballet Premiere


COPPÉLIA


Choreography: Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine

Opening Night


Saturday, March 19, 2011, 8:00 PM


Swanilda: Maria Kochetkova*


Franz: Gennadi Nedvigin*


Dr. Coppelius: Damian Smith*

Sunday, March 20, 2011, 2:00 PM


Swanilda: Vanessa Zahorian+


Franz: Taras Domitro+


Dr. Coppelius: Ricardo Bustamante*
 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 8:00 PM

Swanilda: Vanessa Zahorian


Franz: Taras Domitro


Dr. Coppelius: Ricardo Bustamante    


Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 7:30 PM

Swanilda: Frances Chung*


Franz: Vitor Luiz+


Dr. Coppelius: Damian Smith



Thursday, March 24, 2011, 8:00 PM


Swanilda: Vanessa Zahorian


Franz: Joan Boada+


Dr. Coppelius: Ricardo Bustamante
 


Friday, March 25, 2011, 8:00 PM


Swanilda: Maria Kochetkova


Franz: Gennadi Nedvigin


Dr. Coppelius: Damian Smith  



Saturday, March 26, 2011, 2:00 PM


Swanilda: Frances Chung


Franz: Vitor Luiz


Dr. Coppelius: Damian Smith   

 

Saturday, March 26, 2011, 8:00 PM


Swanilda: Vanessa Zahorian


Franz: Joan Boada


Dr. Coppelius: Ricardo Bustamante

Sunday, March 27, 2011, 2:00 PM


Swanilda: Maria Kochetkova


Franz: Gennadi Nedvigin


Dr. Coppelius: Damian Smith

+premiere in this production

* Denotes premiere in role.

Casting subject to change.

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Wonderful production of Coppelia - one of best finished I've seen SF Ballet do. A huge feast of a ballet Balanchine & Danilova serve up, old French butter & cream dish after dish third act. Beautifully scalloped czardas in first act take your breath away. Madness of Discord & War is like Mark Morris before MM, Clara Blanco's Spinner/Work finely done. Vanessa Zahorian ws fast, fluent, brilliant, wonderful throughout, Taras Domitro a great Franz & lovely dancer & authentic link to Cuban alternative version which may come from ABT or US Ballet Russes of 1940's...Does anyone know its origin? Interestingly Denby says that Balanchine worked on US Monte Carlo BR version - "cleaned it up in 1945." I think Balanchine/Danilova leaves out the lovely violin pas where Swanhilda advances in a series to Franz's arm - instead it's given to Sw as a solo.

Anyway Denby says that Coppelia is to Twelfth Night as Giselle is to Hamlet and it was a great privilege to have seen this year Vanessa Zahorian & Taras Domitro so effectively do both. That said this production - despite its excess of richnesses - worth seeing with other casts. Frances Chung has been dancing very freely this year, especially in Theme & Variations - in little delightful bursts "like a bird splashing in water," and Joan Boada, brilliant in HT's Trio, is another connection to Cuban/BR? Coppelia.

disclaimer- sent off tiny argumentative keybord of iPod

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Taras Domitro a great Franz & lovely dancer & authentic link to Cuban alternative version which may come from ABT or US Ballet Russes of 1940's...Does anyone know its origin?

Quiggin, the Cuban Coppelia goes back to 1948, and it was staged by Leon Fokine. That's the version Alonso staged in 1956 at the Greek Theatre in LA, from where Enrique Martinez took it to Ballet Theatre. Alonso left BT after that and joined BRdMC until 1959,

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Thanks Cristian - can only find bits on provenance here and there. Be interested to know if any of Balanchine's 1945 interventions survived anywhere - or what they were.

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Sorry Cristian - I mixed up names on this tiny screen and no edit button. Thanks for the response - you should be out here to see this production and post your comments - still time to do so!

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Cast change:

PROGRAM 5 Evening

Saturday, March 26, 2011, 8:00 PM

COPPÉLIAChoreography: Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine

Conductor: Martin West

Swanilda: Vanessa Zahorian

Franz: Taras Domitro (Joan Boada originally scheduled)

Dr. Coppelius: Ricardo Bustamante

I'm going to both of Saturday's performances, and was really looking forward to seeing Boada, who hasn't been around a lot lately. Guess I'll just have to console myself with Taras :wink:

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All the Coppelias (or nicely “the girl with the eyes of enamel”) are over and I still can’t get musical phrases of Delibes out of my head. I wish there was an annotated guide to all the figures in the last act of divertissements so I can pin them away in memory, like Swanilda’s butterfly. It was a mess of a Balanchine style book, parts of it like Emeralds in pink, with forty or so children of various heights forming boxes - or pink boxwood hedges - around the soloists, continuously framing and reframing them. They moved in and out in magical phalanxes and in Work they form wonderful spinning looms. The part in the finale where Franz is madly jumping in place over and over again and throwing his feet up behind him, zig zag fashion, reminded me of kinoscopes of Your Show of Shows, of Howard Morris doing equivalent contrapuntal jumps (Gennadi Nedvigin's were especially lighthearted).

I did get to see 2 1/2 casts, and thought that Vanessa Zahorian did the best job of being the Shavian heroine that Edwin Denby thought she should be – who in the second act finds her way to a solution for the dilemma they’ve all gotten themselves into. In the first act Maria Kochetkova seemed more flexible in her timing while Vanessa Zahorian brought out the continuous assemblage of steps and sharp figures, especially the wonderful snips of offset scissor jumps on the bias across stage. And as Delibes music mocks itself, she and the small corps of brides-to-be would challenge and mock each other in a series of intricate little steps, some of which seemed to have a kinship to those in the clip from “Figure in the Carpet.”

Isaac Hernandez’s last minute Franz was bright and open as his dancing, and his character was totally incapable of duplicity or deceit, so that when he steals the butterfly away from Swanilda and pins it to himself, the act seemed completely lacking in selfishness. At the last Saturday evening performance Taras Domitro took Franz to a new level of mischievousness and kept embellishing the role, even the stops and pauses had a pent up kinetic energy and time to them, a bit like Chaplin in the Mack Sennett days. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see Frances Chung and Vitor Luiz perform – or Joan Boada, whose delightful “Harlequinade” excerpt at a past gala will have serve as a stand-in in memory.

Am looking forward to the comments from Bart, Cristian and Jack at the Miami board next season on their Coppelia – and am curious if Miami too will be using the PNB sets.

correction: Denby for Croce

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It's great to start getting so much detailed reporting from San Francisco. Thanks, all.

[ ... ] am curious if Miami too will be using the PNB sets.

I checked my old programs. The last two outings of MCB's Coppelia, Arnold Abramson -- who also did MCB's recent Scotch Symphony -- is credited with the set design. Abrahmson is, I believe, a Florida-based designer.

Costumes, on the other hand, were from ABT. I haven't seen ABT's in decades, but I remember -- from the days of Gregory and Bujones -- that it was someone else's version, not Balanchine's.

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Costumes, on the other hand, were from ABT. I haven't seen ABT's in decades, but I remember -- from the days of Gregory and Bujones -- that it was someone else's version, not Balanchine's.

ABT had it's first full-length Coppelia in the late 60s with Fracci and Bruhn. I saw them as well as a number of other casts . the version they performed then was credited to Enrique Martinez.

The version ABT currently performs is billed as "staged and directed by" Freddie Franklin. to be honest I can't comment on the differences between the first and the current ABT versions, I've only seen both a few times.

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Isaac Hernandez’s last minute Franz was bright and open as his dancing, and his character was totally incapable of duplicity or deceit, so that when he steals the butterfly away from Swanilda and pins it to himself, the act seemed completely lacking in selfishness. At the last Saturday evening performance Taras Domitro took Franz to a new level of mischievousness and kept embellishing the role, even the stops and pauses had a pent up kinetic energy and time to them, a bit like Chaplin in the Mack Sennett days. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see Frances Chung and Vitor Luiz perform – or Joan Boada, whose delightful “Harlequinade” excerpt at a past gala will have serve as a stand-in in memory.

Did Hernandez replace Domitro who replaced Boada and dance with Zahorian in the last Saturday night performance? (i.e., am I sorry I flew out Saturday night?)

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Isaac Hernandez’s last minute Franz was bright and open as his dancing, and his character was totally incapable of duplicity or deceit, so that when he steals the butterfly away from Swanilda and pins it to himself, the act seemed completely lacking in selfishness. At the last Saturday evening performance Taras Domitro took Franz to a new level of mischievousness and kept embellishing the role, even the stops and pauses had a pent up kinetic energy and time to them, a bit like Chaplin in the Mack Sennett days. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see Frances Chung and Vitor Luiz perform – or Joan Boada, whose delightful “Harlequinade” excerpt at a past gala will have serve as a stand-in in memory.

Did Hernandez replace Domitro who replaced Boada and dance with Zahorian in the last Saturday night performance? (i.e., am I sorry I flew out Saturday night?)

On Saturday night, Domitro replaced Boada.

On Thursday night, Hernandez replaced Boada.

PROGRAM 5 Evening

Thursday, March 24, 2011, 8:00 PM

COPPÉLIA

Choreography: Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine

Conductor: Martin West

Swanilda: Vanessa Zahorian

Franz: Isaac Hernández*

Dr. Coppelius: Ricardo Bustamante

+premiere in this production

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Im sorry I didnt get to see Frances Chung and Vitor Luiz perform

I saw these two and they were wonderful. Luiz doesnt have Domitros floating quality (Domitro doesnt jump, he lifts, as if hes being raptured), but Luiz is a solid technician and a very likable, slightly bewildered Franz all these pretty girls, I mean, whats a guy to do?

As to Chung what can you say? Casting her as Swanhilda is a no-brainer but I was a little concerned about how well she would carry a whole ballet. Her Swanhilda is less theatrical than Zahorians, maybe a little less detailed, but Chungs acting is easy and natural, and shes very, very funny a born comedienne. That brief moment when she imitates Coppelius was priceless. (I have to say that she is proving to be a lot more versatile than I had anticipated, and this season shes been visibly more confident as if she finally scaled up from soloist to principal. Chung genuinely commands the stage now.)

The biggest surprise to me, watching the matinee and evening performances on the same day, is how important Coppelius is to setting the overall tone of the performance. In the evening, Bustamantes Dr. was almost comical, a dotty old professor ripe for being teased by the youngsters. Amusing, but you didnt feel any pity for him.

Damian Smith, though, took the role, and so the ballet, to a whole other level of humanity. Smith has said in interviews that he wanted to make Coppelius into a sad, lonely old man, and that he does brilliantly. Smiths Coppelius is physically and spiritually damaged and when he finds out the truth of Swanhildas trick, you dont sense anger, but genuine grief, as if hed been told of the death of his child (which he has been, in a way). It was an astonishing performance of genuine dramatic power.

A word for the production: its beautiful, although Im still suffering from a slight case of pink overload. Great addition for the company.

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As to Chung – what can you say? Casting her as Swanhilda is a no-brainer but I was a little concerned about how well she would carry a whole ballet. Her Swanhilda is less theatrical than Zahorian’s, maybe a little less detailed, but Chung’s acting is easy and natural, and she’s very, very funny – a born comedienne. That brief moment when she imitates Coppelius was priceless. (I have to say that she is proving to be a lot more versatile than I had anticipated, and this season she’s been visibly more confident – as if she finally scaled up from soloist to principal. Chung genuinely commands the stage now.)

I agree 100% that Chung is an excellent comedienne. Her timing was perfect. Her Act II was so fine, I wondered how she could top it, but she was lovely in Act III, still spunky, but transformed into a bride. What I think made her command the stage so well and carry a full length is that she never forced her formidable technique front and center. She maintained the characterization, and the technique was there to support her. Brava to her -- she was wonderful.

Luiz' Franz was quite full of himself, both in mime and the flair with which he danced his solos, and I think this Franz thought himself smarter than he actually was and quite the ladies' man. The flair won out over line and form at times, but his Franz had a lot of spirit.

I also saw Maria Kochetkova and Gennai Nedvigin on Friday night. Kochetkova's characterization was prettier on the surface than Chung's -- I kept thinking of Jacques d'Amboise's characterization of his mother, a tiny woman who could do almost anything, and, what she couldn't, she didn't hesitate to ask for, in her portrayal. She heard so much more than any other dancer I've seen do this role. In her "Wheat" solo, for example, it was as if she was turning over every grain -- responding to every musical grain -- to get an assurance of Franz's love. It was an intricate and immediate response to the music, and she danced through the phrases, never stopping on the beat. The same musicality made her dancing in Act III exquisite. From where I was sitting in the Dress Circle, her mime was crystal clear and convincing.

Franz has less than Swanhilde/Coppelia to dance and mime, but, Nedvigin's mime, too, was clear as a bell, and he, too, connected the dance phrases in a sensitive and articulate way. His form was just lovely -- arabesques landings at 90 degrees extending horizontally, with no upward free-leg bounce -- and his turning jumps in attitude light an airy. As a character, he was sweet but dumb: Kochetkova's Swanhilda will tie him in a bow for the rest of his life, and he'll thank her for it.

Damian Smith, though, took the role, and so the ballet, to a whole other level of humanity. Smith has said in interviews that he wanted to make Coppelius into a sad, lonely old man, and that he does brilliantly. Smith’s Coppelius is physically and spiritually damaged and when he finds out the truth of Swanhilda’s trick, you don’t sense anger, but genuine grief, as if he’d been told of the death of his child (which he has been, in a way). It was an astonishing performance of genuine dramatic power.

Smith's Dr. Coppelius, which I saw in both performances, was the heart of the ballet. You could feel the zest and lust and greed and ego and desire that was still in him. If he had a motto, it would have been "Youth is wasted on the young." He did none of the mincing or rocking movements that you see in portrayals of older people: he practically lunged when he walked, railing against the frailties of his age. There was a moment in Act II when I wondered if he would think to just take Franz's legs and try to give them to himself rather than Coppelia, yet he's the only Dr. Coppelius I can remember who emphasized the hesitation, the "The instructions say to do WHAT?", when the next step in the recipe is to take Franz's heart. At the end of the Act, when he threw himself at Coppelia's feet, there was a ghost of Albrecht there. When he took the money in Act III, it rang more as if he had really lost it and was accepting a dowry rather than compensation for a broken toy.

There are so many moving parts in this ballet, it's hard to know where to begin! The corps was superb, dancing the long Mazurka and Czardas with style and energy. How do they get so many tall, tall men in San Francisco? Though none seemed as tall as instructor Jeff Lyons, who towered over the village in his warm, kindly portrayal of the Mayor. Among Coppelia's friends, the two that struck me most were the bold, expressive Dores Andre (both performances), also a standout as a Jesterette, and the bright, clear Koto Ishihara.

In the variations, the kids in "Waltz of the Golden Hours" were sharper and more finished -- less like applause machines -- than their counterparts in Seattle, and, as a result, there was a sense of layering and development: these kids would grow into that who would grow into the next age, and so on. Jennifer Stahl looked oddly stiff and uncomfortable leading them, as if she was a guest lead. Courtney Elizabeth in the matinee looked like the embodiment of what they aspire to, part of an organic whole. Charlene Cohen was a lovely and gracious Dawn, dancing with a joyful lightness. Sofiane Sylve danced Prayer; her feet were lovely, but she danced the variation as if she were a dowager. By contrast Dana Genshaft danced with a beautifully expressive upper body, and arching back, she was beseeching in prayer. Both Clara Blanco and Nicole Ciapponi were quick, light, sprightly Spinners, just what the role calls for. Both sets of Jesterettes danced beautifully together.

Every time I see Discord and War, I think of "Springtime for Hitler". It's just too odd. Jennifer Stahl was a knockout in it: leggy, elegant, and glamorous. There was a whiff of Tanaquil LeClercq in the air. Her partner, Garen Scribner, was bold, dynamic, and simply brilliant. In the other performance, Sarah Van Patten was cool and detached, while Daniel Deivison danced around her with elegance and dash.

It was a short trip, but I am so glad I was able to go to San Francisco at the last minute for this. I hope this production is a keeper. It's so much more relaxed for children without all of the holiday expectations and sugar overload that often comes with "The Nutcracker". There was a young girl, maybe 6, diagonally in front of me who sat with her bear and her rabbit on her lap, complete rapt. The only time I noticed she moved was when she swayed her invisible fan during Coppelia's Spanish dance.

(Unsolicited advice to parents in the audience: when your kids ask you what happens in the next act, read the synopsis. Don't try to remember another production you saw when you were eight or make things up. It really confuses the kids, and sometimes they want clarification in the middle of the performance, when what happens onstage isn't what you told them.)

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