Balanchine’s Coppélia returned to the New York City Ballet repertory this season after a five-year absence. Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova staged the work in 1974 after revivals by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg in the late 19th century. The cheerful comedy ballet is based on the story by E.T.A Hoffmann.
Coppélia is a life-sized doll created by an old, mad, and cranky scientist, Dr. Coppelius, in a village in Galicia, once an Austro-Hungarian province according to the program notes. Frantz, a village swain, takes a liking to the life-like doll, much to the dismay of his true love Swanilda. In an effort to win back Frantz, Swanilda sneaks into Dr. Coppelia’s workshop, discovers Coppélia the doll, and switches places with her. Swanilda ultimately saves Frantz from Dr. Coppelius in his workshop and all is forgiven. The wedding celebration is the third act.
Megan Fairchild played Swanilda on Saturday evening and her real-life husband Andrew Veyette portrayed Frantz. Megan and Andrew are a natural pair, in synch with each other in the various dances; both pulled off the intrecate pantomime work throughout the ballet. I liked Andrew’s first act solo, particularly his double cabriole derrière, which showed substantial separation between beats (other practitioners of the wide separation double cabriole include ABT’s Herman Cornejo and Ivan Vasiliev.) Andrew also had a double tour, single pirouette sequence with a fouetté to a double tour to the knee to end the solo. An effortless, nice solo. Megan’s phrasing stood out in her solo as she paused with the music during her grande battements in addition to a nice light brisé diagonal.
In Act II, Swanilda enters Dr. Coppelius’ workshop. Robert La Fosse skillfully portrayed the grumpy, rickety, mad scientist. In the workshop, Swanilda dresses up in Coppélia’a clothes and comes to life, dancing a Scottish reel and Spanish fandango. She then awakens Frantz, who was given wine laced with sleeping powder by Dr. Coppelius, and the two lovers escape.
The third act celebrates Swanilda and Frantz’s wedding and features well danced solos by Lauren King (Dawn), Faye Arthurs (Prayer), and Ashley Laracey (Spinner). The first two acts are similar to ABT’s version staged by Frederic Franklin, except I don’t remember the Discord and War dance in the ABT version.
Megan and Andrew were in fine form in the grande pas de deux with Megan performing several nice balances. Andrew’s solo featured alternating double cabriole devant (beats in front), tours to a second position, and rond de jambe en l’air. His solo wasn’t the most technically difficult but it was well done. I’ve seen some variations from ABT which feature tours from one leg and turns a la seconde pulling in to pirouettes without a plie. It was a busy day for Andrew as he also performed the role in the matinee performance, with Tiler Peck. (Update: from Haglund, Andrew also performed in the Friday evening and Sunday matinee performances for a total of four performances in three days due to an injury to Joaquin De Luz).
The company will perform Coppélia again on February 22 and 23.