New York City Ballet
by Colleen Boresta
May 3, 2009 -- David Koch Theater, New York City
“Coppelia,” choreographed by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova, is one of New York City Ballet’s sunniest ballets. I am very happy that NYCB is dancing “Coppelia” during their 2009 Spring season. The “Coppelia” I saw on May 3rd was even better than the performance I saw this past January.
“Coppelia” is the story of Swanilda and her fiancé, Franz. Franz falls in love with Coppelia, a mechanical doll made by Dr. Coppelius, that Franz thinks is a person. Franz breaks into Dr. Coppelius’ house to see Coppelia, and is discovered by Dr. Coppelius. After knocking Franz out with a potion put in his drink, Dr. Coppelius tries to take Franz’s life force and use it to make Coppelia come to life. He doesn’t know that who he thinks is Coppelia, is really Swanilda who has broken into his house and switched clothes with the doll. (Neither Franz nor Swanilda are exactly model teenagers.) By the end of Act II, Swanilda wakes up Franz, and shows him Coppelia is only a doll. In Act III, Franz and Swanilda get married.
As an endearingly goofy Franz, Andrew Veyette is even better than he was in January. He makes the audience believe he is in love with both his fiancée, Swanilda, and the mechanical doll, Coppelia. In the past year, Veyette has become a very exciting dancer. He has incredible elevation -- like Superman, jumping as though he can “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
In the role of Swanilda, Tiler Peck does not put a foot wrong. She has great musicality as well as sheer speed and power. She makes Balanchine’s fiendishly difficult hops on pointe look both easy and lovely. Peck’s comic timing is also spot on, especially in Act II when Swanilda is impersonating the mechanical doll, Coppelia. Swanilda’s battle of wits with Dr. Coppelius, Coppelia’s creator, is a highlight of the ballet. Peck is especially playful when she shows Dr. Coppelius that he really has brought her to life. Peck’s Spanish and Scottish character dancing is lively and fun.
As the elderly Dr. Coppelius, the young soloist Adam Hendrickson is both funny and very moving. In Act II, Hendrickson’s acting shows the audience that Dr. Coppelius really believes Coppelia has come to life. The look on his face when Swanida shows Dr. Coppelius she is just pretending to be Coppelia is tragic. Hendrickson holds the naked limp Coppelia doll in his arms like she is his dead child. At that point, Hendrickson convinces the audience that Swanilda’s pretending has gone too far.
In Act III, Swanilda and Franz’s wedding, the soloists perform beautifully. Dena Abregal, as Prayer, is a real standout. Abregal has a lovely, light jump, and her extension is glorious. As always, the biggest round of applause was for the little girls in pink. Some of the tiniest ones look very young, no more than six or seven. They definitely deserved the acclaim the audience gave them.
It was great seeing such a perfect production of “Coppelia.” The orchestra played the delicious Delibes score flawlessly. My one complaint is that NYCB only danced “Coppelia” four times during this Spring season. Many little girls attended the May 3rd matinee of “Coppelia” and their behavior was without fault. I think “Coppelia” should become an annual event, and run for at least eight to ten performances. This is a family ballet right up there with Balanchine’s “Nutcracker.”