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Coppelia


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#1 FauxPas

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 08:55 AM

I saw the opening night last night with Xiomara Reyes and Ivan Vasiliev replacing Herman as Frantz. A few weeks ago I saw the Bolshoi production by Vikharev reproducing Petipa transmitted in HD with Natalia Osipova. That production, like the Frederic Franklin staging reproduced here, is billed as "after Nicholas Sergeyev". However, the Franklin at ABT is clearly reproducing the modest cut down touring version that the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo did in the 1940's with Franklin and Danilova. The Bolshoi reproduced the full 1895 Petipa staging from the Maryinsky as restaged by Sergei Vikharev from Sergeyev's notation. The second act is the same in each version (and very similar to the Aveline/Lacotte staging preserved by the POB school that comes directly from Saint-Leon 1870). However the first and third acts at the Bolshoi have more dancers, more variations and more set pieces and staging devices such as Act III's Father Time on a big clock and a sensational dance of the hours for 24 ballerinas). The Ballets Russes didn't have the staff or budget to tour such a lavish version so theirs is a cut down version but you can see similarities in solos and variations but the ensembles are cut down to use less dancers.

Xiomara Reyes was charming, impish and danced very well as Swanilda. Her face with its big eyes and wide smile speaks clearly in a large auditorium. This role finds her perfectly cast. She actually tripped onstage in the Act II mime scene where Swanilda realizes that Coppelia is actually a doll but laughingly worked it into the scene.

Ivan Vasiliev definitely was a hit with the crowd. His body type is definitely tending towards the demi-caractere. Medium height with shortish legs with overdeveloped thighs and calves. He is very nice-looking with an expressive face. I thoroughly enjoyed his mugging and eager physicality - he was a joy to watch. He has a big, Soviet style of performing - large scaled and not afraid to go over the top. However, he has a grounded masculinity that keeps him from ever looking foolish. Vasiliev didn't have much opportunity to cut loose dance-wise in Acts I and II. He was worked into one of the mazurkas and also did a big jeté offstage at the end of Act I. In Act III's variations and coda, Vasiliev showed more classical form than in "Bright Stream" (more classical choreography). In Act III, he cut loose with bravura dancing that brought the house down. Fast tours a la seconde and barrel turns punctuated by individual vertical rotating leaps upward with one leg bent to the knee. Lots of summer intensive students gasped and roared.

Xiomara came back in Act III with lots of fast fouettes with multiples and clearly was not about to be danced off the stage. Big applause at the end with standing ovations and screaming. Definitely Act III was on a different level than the earlier acts where mime predominates.

Victor Barbee was a fine Dr. Coppelius. Stella Abrera was lush as Dawn and Maria Riccetto refined and romantic with long lines as Prayer. 12 students from the Jacqueline Onassis school danced an ensemble as part of their scene. The sets look a little tired candy box chintzy in Acts I and III but the Act II set is evocative and well-done. David LaMarche conducted well. The audience went home happy.

I suspect we will be seeing Mr. Vasiliev again next year in tandem with Osipova.

#2 mimsyb

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 10:25 AM

I suspect we will be seeing Mr. Vasiliev again next year in tandem with Osipova.

Yes, I suspect we will be seeing Vasiliev next year, based on the audience approval rating. He is easy on the eyes, despite his thunder thighs (how else to jump so high?), but his Bolshoi style landings from said jumps were pretty noisy, and I'm pretty sure the menage of double sau de basques with the one knee up is the same one he threw into the choreography of "Bright Stream", that no other dancer doing the role did. So, maybe it's what he does. I wish his endings were clearer, cleaner, but his "gee whiz boyishness" is effective and he seemed to be OK with Xiomara. As described above, her big eyed delivery works for this role and she seemed at ease with the choreography. I wish I could say that the production had much going for it. Sets and costumes looked very dated, and the corps had none of the polish they had exhibited with "Bright Stream". They just didn't seem as happy to be there. It was back to the scruffy corps dancing seen so much this season. The frilly headpieces on the friends made them look a bit like chamber maids. "Dance of the Hours," "Dawn" and "Prayer" were all nicely danced, but the real dancing comes so late in this production that it almost seems a second thought. There's so much mime, especially in Act I that even the many kids around me had difficulty following it. "When do they dance?", said one Exactly! And for some odd reason there seem to be no other people living in this imaginary place. The open square that begins the ballet looks like maybe this is Chernobel, until the dancers finally do come into the picture. Usually, we get a few extras doing stuff to fill out the stage. Ah well, we can't have genius in every ballet, I guess. But coming after the delicious and inventive "Bright Stream" of the previous week, this seemed like weak pablum by comparison. I'm hoping Osipova and Simkin can breathe some life into this relic.

#3 nysusan

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 06:42 AM

Coppelia has never been one of my favorite ballets. I love the music but somehow the story just doesn't engage me. I was soooo bored through the first 2 acts with the Reyes/Vasiliev cast. I can't blame the performers, Reyes was lovely & Vasiliev is one of the most exciting, charismatic dancers on the stage today. I just felt that the ballet was really plodding. The acts are quite short - no more than half an hour each, but each one felt like an eternity.

The third act finally brought some relief because it contains such beautiful dancing. I love the Prayer and Dawn solos and Abrera & Riccetto performed them very well. Reyes was lovely in hers, and Vasiliev brought the house down when he finally got to do some dancing in the 3rd act. I agree that he is not a particularly elegant dancer, but his leaps and turns are amazing and has such a warm, engaging stage presence. I really hope we get to see more of him here!

#4 canbelto

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 07:58 AM

I saw last night's cast and had a great time. Osipova is just about perfect as Swanilda -- of course great at jumping and turning, but in Act Two, also able to ham it up as the nightmare doll. Simkin was delightful as Franz, although he had some partnering problems in Act Three. I was really disappointed however in the soloist and corps de ballet work. Not a world-class company by any means judging from last night. Simone Messmer was surprisingly blah as Dawn. Hee Seo, whom I usually look forward to seeing, was disappointing as Prayer. Her leg shook whenever she tried to raise it in arabesque or developpe, and the wobbles detracted from the line of this dancer's gorgeously tapered legs and arched feet.

The most disappointing was the corps de ballet, that looked so energized just this Tuesday in Bright Stream. Tonight, the bad old ABT corps habits were back -- the line formations that aren't straight, the lack of coordination in movements, the dissimilar port te bras, the legs that aren't held at the same height, the heavy, leaden, low-energy dancing. The corps girls don't even bother to end a musical phrase at the same time -- often, one girl's leg will fall as the other starts to rise in arabesque. Swanilda's friends and the Czardas in Act One were particularly ragged.

#5 Amy Reusch

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 08:17 PM

I saw it on Friday with Simkin & Osipova.

After hearing for years and years how wonderful Franklin's Coppelia was in relation to others, I was really lookng forward to his insightful staging of the Sergeyev notes. I was taking three girls to see it and have always felt Coppelia was a good ballet for children. It was their first time seeing a ballet at the Met,,and for some of them the first time ever seeing a real ballet company. They adored it. For myself, though I do not feel I have seen Franklin's ballet and suspect I have now lost the chance to do so. There were some strange musicalities going on here to some of the most danceable music in Ballet's repertory... In particular I remember the corps sustaining a fifth position instead of the following arabesque when the music so cried out for it, and the actorly theatrics were missing throughout in a way that seems opposite to how I've heard dancers fondly describe in Franklin's staging... It bothered me to see the Mayor pay off Coppelius rather than the young couple giving him their wedding gold. I guess my hope now is to see Ratmansky restate it and bring out the music again... Though I fear in gaining some gifts from Ratmansky we might also lose some threads back to the original. I swear for one moment i saw a Danilova mannerism preserved in something Osipova did... I keep thinking of how jacques d'Amboise said something like he can't go to the ballet without seeing the ghosts of the dancers who created the part.

Something has been bugging me about Dr. Coppelius... Was there never a production that tied his manufacture of mechanical dolls to the mechanical clock? I keep "hearing" a mechanical doll clock parade....just wondering....

From up in the nosebleeds (and by the way, the house seemed sold up to the to the last row of the FamilyCircle) Osipova!'s floating elevation is still jaw dropping, but there is not enough opportunity for herto fly in this choreography and one had to be content with her ravishing turns. Simkin also delivered, with an amazing set of grand jetes that switched from en avant to arriere and back again without changing the arc of trajectory.... But the real surprise pleasure of the evening was Hee Seo's exquisite "prayer" variation... I cannot wait to see her dance again..

I missed Meredith Benson in Basil Thompson's clever staging of Swanilda's interaction with Franz.

#6 Amy Reusch

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 08:35 PM

Simkin was delightful as Franz, although he had some partnering problems in Act Three. I was really disappointed however in the soloist and corps de ballet work. Not a world-class company by any means judging from last night. Simone Messmer was surprisingly blah as Dawn. Hee Seo, whom I usually look forward to seeing, was disappointing as Prayer. Her leg shook whenever she tried to raise it in arabesque or developpe, and the wobbles detracted from the line of this dancer's gorgeously tapered legs and arched feet.


Yes, the corps was uninspired and ragged particularly after Bright Stream... Simkin seemed not quite tall enough for the lifts, Hee Soe didn't manage to sustain one arabesque among many others that were beautiful but frankly her dancing was so gorgeous I could care less that it dropped to tendu and raised again... Her variation alone was worth the entire production for me. I suspect I could watch her dance doing only tendus and still be mesmerized. Simone Messmer's feet perhaps could use some strengthening so she had more support without having to wear such hard shoes.. She did not look comfortable enough to express herself.. And the orchestra was less than crisp in places...

But, it had been an absolutely soggy day, alternating fog, downpours and thunderstorm, so perhaps the less-than-perfects could be blamed on the weather.

#7 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 08:40 PM

I would love to see Franklin's Coppelia. I absolutely ADORE this ballet, especially for the doll parts. The wedding PDD is one of the most glorious of the classic repertoire, and the mazurka contains one of those tunes that can get into your head forever without taking off...
I wish the Cuban ballet would tour with the crowd pleaser 1957 version it still maintains...it is really beautiful.



#8 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 12:58 AM

Cubanmiamiboy if you want to see Coppelia, I would suggest the New York City Ballet's version rather than that ABT's. I attended yesterday's matinee and will post about it once I get my thoughts together. It is plodding, as has already been said, and Maria Riccetto and Jared Matthews were okay, but nothing special. NYCB is not going to dance Coppelia during the 2011-2012 season, but hopefully they'll include it in the 2012-2013 season.

#9 angelica

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 06:50 PM

I saw the Friday night performance. While Osipova's technique was flawless, I was surprised at the lack of fluidity in her upper body. She doesn't have the plasticity of, say, Veronika Part, who only has to breathe to radiate eloquence. In fact, I could imagine that Osipova had been trained in the U.S. rather than in Russia. Still, she was adorable to watch and her jumps are, beyond question, thrilling.
However, the very best part of the evening took place in the second act, the workshop of Dr. Coppelius. A child in the front of the Orchestra was laughing without any inhibition whatsoever at the stunts of the mechanical dolls, and his/her laughter, was infectious. The child's laughter spread through the audience, which ended up laughing on both accounts--the merriment of the "dolls" onstage and the merriment of the child.

#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 07:59 PM

Cubanmiamiboy if you want to see Coppelia, I would suggest the New York City Ballet's version rather than that ABT's. ... NYCB is not going to dance Coppelia during the 2011-2012 season, but hopefully they'll include it in the 2012-2013 season.


Thanks for the suggestion, Colleen. It is interesting that you compare the two versions and place City Ballet's over Franklin's. I remember when I read Kirkland's book that she had some harsh words for Balanchine's staging-(VERY harsh words indeed,even deciding not to dance in it). On the other side she said to have enjoyed dancing ABT's version-(which was, back then, Enrique Martinez' staging, which he did, without crediting the source, after Alonso's 50's one, in which he danced)

#11 christine174

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 08:26 PM

I was there Friday night. Even such excting performers as Osipova and Simkin couldn't breathe new life into this relic (I know I'm quoting someone on BT but I forget who). I really have no idea why this is still in the rep. I'm foggy on my ballet history so if anyone can fill me in on the enduring appeal I welcome it.
And then Cinderella. No thanks. The ballet sched has been so overloaded I welcome the break before resuming multiple-performance mania with Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

#12 volcanohunter

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 08:55 PM

However, the very best part of the evening took place in the second act, the workshop of Dr. Coppelius. A child in the front of the Orchestra was laughing without any inhibition whatsoever at the stunts of the mechanical dolls, and his/her laughter, was infectious. The child's laughter spread through the audience, which ended up laughing on both accounts--the merriment of the "dolls" onstage and the merriment of the child.

Thank you so much for recounting this incident! I can relate to that child because Coppelia was the second ballet I saw live. To my five-year-old eyes it was utterly enchanting, and like Cristian I still adore it.

#13 Drew

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 11:07 PM

Like Volcanohunter I adore this ballet. But on the whole, I am reading surprising little love for Coppelia on this thread. I confess that while I'm not shocked at the lack of love for ABT's Coppelia or for any particularly ragged performance of the same I am a wee bit at the skepticism regarding the ballet altogether ("no idea why it's still in the rep"-- well, the score for starters...) So, I can't quite help myself from responding...

Many ballet lovers consider Coppelia ballet's great nineteenth-century comedy. I have already remarked on the quality of the score. (If memory does not betray me, Delibes was one of Balanchine's trio of greatest ballet composers: Tchaikovsky, Delibes, Stravinsky. At all events, we know he chose to stage this work despite being no fan of preserving the past for the sake of the past.) It also has a story that's merry on the surface with deeper resonance that productions and performances can draw out in slightly darker directions--or not. I've seen it done successfully both ways.

In any production it puts into play 'classic' oppositions like the natural versus the mechanical, ideal vs. real, young versus old, outsider vs. community. It also gives us the ballerina as intrepid, flesh and blood heroine AND, yet simultaneously, through her Act II deceptions, as dangerous muse. Choreographically this means plenty of dance contrasts as well (character classical, pantomime) and Swanilda's Act II tour de Force itself is, in effect, a kind of commentary on the nineteenth-century ballerina run amuck.

The choreography considered in the abstract?: In any number of more or less traditional productions I have always found it quite enjoyable with classical and character highlights in Act I--and a remarkable encounter of two counter-forces in Act II (whether played for comedy alone or comedy with a bit of tragedy), and memorable variations and grand pas de deux in Act III. Well danced the whole exudes gaiety and charm but also a certain waywardness, maybe cruelty or, at least, cruelty as one of the byproducts of everyday life.

The style is not Sleeping Beauty grand of course, but gentler almost more 'romantic-ballet' in tone (I think, but I am writing as an amateur): the dancing is airy and buoyant and, for example, the sheaf of wheat episode gives us a kind of melancholy, but tender picture of the uncertain lovers--not a show stopper, just one episode, followed by other happier, more festive ones even as the seemingly harmless lovers' quarrel continues. Act II of course suggests that their quarrel may not be so harmless--until Swanilda saves the day. In short, Coppelia has lasted in the repertory for good reason. Which, of course, does not mean that anyone has to like it let alone think that this particular production or these performances were successful. (There is lots more on the ballet elsewhere on this site--especially in the forum devoted to individual classic works.)

I saw the Franklin production at ABT a few years ago and thought I recognized it as more or less the same as the one he did for the National Ballet a few decades ago and that I assume dates back to the touring Ballet Russes versions as mentioned already above by Faux Pas. Mckenzie danced with the National Ballet and must have known this production. I remembered it as seeming magical in my childhood when I saw it with the National--especially Act II and Franklin's own wonderful Coppelius--but when I saw it at ABT, I thought it looked thin, probably for reasons already discussed above by Faux Pas and others (too few dancers, inadequate character dancing etc.). But even so, I found much in the production to enjoy. I can, of course, imagine that shabbily performed it can be dismaying and all the commentators here are pretty consistent in pointing to the faults in ABT performances so far this season. But whatever the flaws of this production and these performances, Coppelia is a major work of art, one of the ballet's masterpieces. One may not like it, but it remains in repertory for good reason.

#14 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 05:49 AM

It's not that I have little love for Coppelia. I have little love for this production of Coppelia, especially with Maria Riccetto and Jared Matthews. I will post further in a little while. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the George Balanchine/Alexandra Danilova Coppelia danced at New York City Ballet. I will go into a lot more detail re: the contrasts between the two versions of Coppelia when I post further thoughts.

#15 YID

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 06:07 AM

I saw the Friday night performance. While Osipova's technique was flawless, I was surprised at the lack of fluidity in her upper body. She doesn't have the plasticity of, say, Veronika Part, who only has to breathe to radiate eloquence. In fact, I could imagine that Osipova had been trained in the U.S. rather than in Russia. Still, she was adorable to watch and her jumps are, beyond question, thrilling.

couldn't resist noting - Osipova is from a Moscow school, Part is a product of Vaganova school (St. Petersburg) the main source for Kirov/Mariinsky ballet. There was always a difference in style between the schools (however, it was a bit blended at Bolshoi as plenty of Mariinsky/Vaganov dancers moved to Bolshoi)......
and the second offtopic - Bolshoi is scheduled to bring its Coppelia to DC next May ;-))


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