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Coppelia


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#16 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 06:29 AM

As I already mentioned a few times, I attended the May 18th matinee of ABT's Coppelia.

American Ballet Theatre’s production of Coppelia is staged by Frederic Frankln after versions of this ballet staged by Nicholas Sergeyev in England. Sergeyev, in turn, learned Coppelia from the great Marius Petipa at the Maryinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Franklin’s staging of Coppelia (first staged for ABT in 1997) shares many similarities with the production choreographed by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova for New York City Ballet. After all, Franklin and Danilova had a famous partnership for many years with the Ballet Russe.,

I, however, find the George Balanchine/Alexandra Danilova Coppelia to be superior to the Frederic Franklin version. There is much more dancing in NYCB’s Coppelia, especially in Act I. Franklin’s Act I is almost entirely mime. Much of this mime is not presented clearly. The pace of ABT’s Coppelia is rather slow and tedious. NYCB’s version of the same ballet moves along at a faster pace. There are also some costume problems in Franklin’s Coppelia, particularly those worn by Swanilda’s friends. I imagine the intention is for the mop caps and long dresses to show old-fashioned charm. Instead, they just look dowdy.

One of the biggest differences between American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet’s Coppelias is the character of Dr. Coppelius. In ABT’s production Dr. Coppelius is a buffoon. Yes, he’s upset at the end of Act II when he discovers that Coppelia is not really alive, but only Swanilda playing a trick on him. In Act III, however, after receiving a bag of gold from the Burgomaster, Dr. Coppelius forgives Swanilda and Franz and watches the wedding festivities from his balcony. A fully clothed Coppelia is sitting beside him.

In the third act of NYCB’s Coppelia, Dr. Coppelius enters holding the naked limp Coppelia doll like a dead child. He does take the money from the Burgomaster, but he’s not happy about it. And NYCB’s Dr. Coppelius certainly does not forgive Swanilda or Franz, or watch the wedding celebration.

At the June 18th matinee of Coppelia, Swanilda is danced by soloist Maria Riccetto. Riccetto is a sweet Swanilda, with good comic timing. Her performance, however, lacks sparkle. Unfortunately as well, her dancing is not up to the level needed for the role. While executing her fouettes during the coda of the Act III pas de deux, Riccetto fell off pointe. There is nothing special about her dancing, nothing that makes Riccetto’s Swanilda stand out.

Soloist Jared Matthews is a rather bland Franz. His dancing is okay, but there is nothing exciting about it. Alex Agoudine is a very funny Dr. Coppelius, but his humor is a bit too much on the slapstick side for my taste. Isabella Boylston shines in the Dawn variation in Act III. She has lovely extensions and a glorious light leap. As Prayer in the same act, Zhong-Jing Fong’s solo is somewhat wobbly. The biggest applause (and deservedly so) is reserved for the 12 little girls who perform the Dance of the Hours. These students at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ballet school all have bright futures ahead of them.

The ABT orchestra plays the delicious Delibes score flawlessly. Coppelia is a wonderful ballet, especially for children. I only hope American Ballet Theatre finds a lively version of this classic for their repertoire.

#17 Amy Reusch

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 07:10 AM

Coppelia remains in ballet's rep for good reason... I have read that it revived Ballet which had fallen far out of favor in Paris and with a score like that and a beautiful ballerina with charm and humor, it seems a believable theory. I understand the ballerina was lost shortly afterward, something to do with the Franco-Prussian war. Wikipedia says she was only 17 at her death... And the choreography was lost. Petipa revived it and ABT's descends from his. It, along with Fille and Nut, are about the best ballets out there to start a very young balletomane off with. I think, with its comedy, it requires something we haven't been training into our dancers much lately, acting ability... Something I suspect the early ABT and late Ballets Russe excelled at. I was noticing how compared with Bright Stream the group choreography seemed tame and I don't know why. If dancers as good as ABts corps can't captivate with a tendu and only with flashy steps, something indeed is wrong, but i don't really think the problem lies there. Perhaps subtleties don't read up to the nosebleeds as well, but surely this is where I saw it as a 7 year old... And I remember being captivated by the girls sneaking into the house back then. Little was made of it now... And why on earth did Franz show up with a ladder and place in front of a wide open door? Osipova's acting read well unto the top balcony, Simkin's was okay, Coppelius' was basic, corps de ballet's was not much apparent at all. In some parts the corps was clearly being rigorous about holding to the dynamics they were instructed to, but these seemed disconnected to the music and I can't understand why... Something must have been lost in communication... I can only imagine that my hero, having defied nature all years, is indeed finally 97.

#18 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 07:33 AM

...and so here we have the tragic common place of the companies that allow huge gaps of time in between showings of certain ballets, resulting in both dancers AND audience growing unfamiliar with it. Then, suddenly, the ballet succeeds in starting to become a curiosity...a museum piece. How long before the same story occurs in ABT with Chopiniana...? or Fille...?
I'm really really hoping for this tale not to be repeated with the upcoming showing of Giselle in Villella's company. If it does, that would be a tragedy.

#19 Amy Reusch

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 09:05 AM

...and so here we have the tragic common place of the companies that allow huge gaps of time in between showings of certain ballets, resulting in both dancers AND audience growing unfamiliar with it. Then, suddenly, the ballet succeeds in starting to become a curiosity...a museum piece. How long before the same story occurs in ABT with Chopiniana...? or Fille...?
I'm really really hoping for this tale not to be repeated with the upcoming showing of Giselle in Villella's company. If it does, that would be a tragedy.


But keeping a piece in constant rep can make it fade too... Giving it a break and then reviving it isn't so terrible an idea... The issue is perhaps in how long the break is and who is responsible for the revival...

#20 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 09:43 AM


...and so here we have the tragic common place of the companies that allow huge gaps of time in between showings of certain ballets, resulting in both dancers AND audience growing unfamiliar with it. Then, suddenly, the ballet succeeds in starting to become a curiosity...a museum piece. How long before the same story occurs in ABT with Chopiniana...? or Fille...?
I'm really really hoping for this tale not to be repeated with the upcoming showing of Giselle in Villella's company. If it does, that would be a tragedy.


But keeping a piece in constant rep can make it fade too... Giving it a break and then reviving it isn't so terrible an idea... The issue is perhaps in how long the break is and who is responsible for the revival...


Like Esmeralda or The little Humpbacked Horse...? Lavishes productions that end up being presented a couple of times to then fall back again into their dormant state, or even worse..into oblivion...? Dancers that can't really believe in its story because they don't nothing about it, because they haven't seen it being performed EVER, because they don't know what to do with it or how to GET IT in their bones...? Audiences that see it as a foreign-(if beautiful)-object from another era and time-(name it, vintage BRdMC, vintage BT, vintage City Ballet, etc)...? Absence of a solid historic performance background due to lack of knowledgeable coaches familiar with the roles...?

This is what this is all about...

#21 canbelto

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 04:46 PM

Actually I don't think there are many differences between the NYCB version and the ABT version, in terms of choreography, mime, and stage business. Even Act Three, which Balanchine "rechoreographed", is recognizably the same ballet as the ABT's, and it's also recognizably the same ballet as the Bolshoi reconstruction that I saw in HD.

I think if there's any difference between the NYCB and ABT versions it's that in recent years, the NYCB dances this like a real unified company. The ABT can usually get good leads in Swanilda and Franz, but after that the soloist variations and corps work is not really at the NYCB's level. Swanilda and Franz are not big enough dancing roles that they can sort of carry a ballet, the way a good O/O or Giselle/Albrecht can make you forget everything else, and that's another problem with the ABT's version.

#22 angelica

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 05:47 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.

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 ;-))



#23 angelica

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 05:48 PM

"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)......"
Yes, but Nina Ananiashvili was Bolshoi trained and she has that gorgeous upper body plasticity. Not sure where Stella Abrera trained, but she has it also.

#24 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:35 AM

Swanilda and Franz are not big enough dancing roles that they can sort of carry a ballet, the way a good O/O or Giselle/Albrecht can make you forget everything else, and that's another problem with the ABT's version.


So revert to Enrique Martinez' version...! (hint-hint).
Edited to add...not version, but staging...

BTW...Does anybody know why it got dropped...?

#25 Amy Reusch

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:54 AM

I'm guessing because Franklin was so gifted at bringing out the best in a production... I don't know Enrique Martinez's story at all,though I have also enjoyed his Swan Lake. Is he still living? How did he get to be staging ballets? Did he have one of those phenomenal memories like Franklin? I'm not aware of him as a choreographer... Did he simply restage or is there a body of original work as well?

#26 rg

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:13 AM

Martinez is a dancer/choreographer who studied w/ Alicia Alonso and Igor Schwezoff.
he likely based his '68 COPPELIA which Oxford says he choreographed, that is, not just 'staged,' on a Cuban/Alonso version. (Croce wrote a while back that, and i'm not quoting verbatum, his production's broad and farcical presentation of the priest at the nutials pf Swanilda and Franz (esp. as performed by Dennis Nahat) were likely connected to Castro's Cuba's anti-religious bent.)
btw, Martinez had nothing to do w/ any SWAN LAKE i can think of; does the ref. above mean to name David Blair for his ABT staging?
i'm not sure if Martinez is still living.

#27 rg

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 09:07 AM

attached is a fading color photo of Baryshnikov as Franz in the Martinez COPPELIA which he danced opposite Gelsey Kirkland.

Attached Files



#28 Amy Reusch

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 09:18 AM

I'm pretty sure the Swan Lake I shot for Pennsylvania Ballet was by Enrique Martinez... must check when next I'm home... it had a lovely Maypole dance in it, which I'm not sure I remember in other productions, but you, rg, would surely know. Thanks for the info!

#29 rg

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 09:24 AM

you are correct, AR, i was not aware of Martinez's SWAN LAKE, which would seem (see below) to have been first staged for Milwaukee Ballet (and then subsequently for PA Ballet?) and which was most likely based on Blair's for ABT, in which Martinez often danced Wolfgang.
here's what the NYPL dance cat. says in its entry:
Swan lake - Chor: Enrique Martínez after Ivanov and M. Petipa, with additional choreography by David Blair; mus: Peter Tchaikovsky; scen & cos: José Varona. Firt perf: Milwaukee, 1984; Milwaukee Ballet.

#30 OneSwan

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 09:48 AM

I saw Coppelia the evening of Monday the 21st, with Osipova and Simkin.

It was my first time seeing ABT's production which, like Colleen, I don't think compares favorably with City Ballet's version. I also found it to be slow-paced, as well as lacking in narrative cohesion. But Osipova and Simkin were truly wonderful, so I ended up very much enjoying what would otherwise have been a pretty lackluster ballet. Osipova was a spunky, utterly charming Coppelia and her pirouettes and jumps were a particular delight. This was my second time seeing her, and I enjoyed her more in this role than in the role of Aurora, which I saw her dance last summer. She seemed more confident and vivid on stage last night than in last summer's SB.

Simkin's acting was not as strong as Osipova's, but he was just breathtaking in his Act III solos. Once Osipova left the stage for him to begin his first solo it felt like he'd been let off a leash. I've never seen another male dancer who can do the jumps and leaps that he can. He is not yet the most confident or engaged partner, and his acting is still developing, but when he is dancing by himself he is just such an absolute joy to watch. He's one of the most exciting dancers I've ever seen, and I look forward to watching him for many, many years to come.

The corps and soloists were not giving their finest performances on Monday night, but Hee Seo was very lovely as Prayer. Beautiful, impressive balances and port de bras. Her performance made me sorry that I was out of the country for her Giselle debut earlier this season. I hope that the company continues to give her a chance at principal roles.


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