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Pennsylvania Ballet

May 1, 2014

Photography by Alexander Iziliaev The horse was MIA on opening night

Photograph by Alexander Iziliaev
The horse was MIA on opening night

Coppélia
Reviewed May 1, 2014
NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

(Repeat performances May 2 & 3, 8 p.m. plus matinee May 3, 2 p.m.)

I’m not sure what happened to the horse. Pre-show promotion of Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of Coppélia told of the miniature horse “Jill,” that Ottawa’s 115-year-old John Crundell Stables was lending to the ballet for a walk-on role before curtain fall. She was to pull a carriage to escort the two protagonists off stage.

Jill was a no-show on opening night. Was it stage fright? Last-minute jitters? Or did she pee back stage? I guess we’ll never know. It would have been a first – a horse on Southam Hall’s stage – but the show’s not over yet, so it might still happen.

Nevertheless, horse or no horse, the classical three-act comedy ballet Coppélia, as performed by one of America’s premier ballet companies, is worth going to see before it closes Saturday.

Coppélia is a charming little story ballet appealing to young and old alike, a Marius Petipa creation which premiered at Paris’s Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra nearly 150 years ago. It’s been part of Pennsylvania Ballet’s repertoire for more than 35 years. Old as it is, the beguiling story of a group of young village people – including two lovers – and their curiosity about a mysterious tottering old toy maker who makes a life-sized doll is still delightful and fresh.

It’s true storybook material and José Varona’s scenic design of a quaint little village and the pretty folk costumes for the dancers add the right amount of enchantment to the fairy tale. The story – told through gesture and pantomime as well as dance – is simple, joyful and spirited.

Swanilda is an attractive and mischievous young girl who sneaks into the toy maker Dr. Coppélius’s enthralling workshop, her girlfriends in tow, to play havoc with the life-sized dolls she finds there and to switch places with the doll Coppélia, which her fiancé, Franz, has fallen in love with.

Do we have a love triangle here? Well, yes, of sorts, but it all ends happily with Swanilda and Franz tying the knot in the village square and riding off into the sunset – except that didn’t happen because Jill the horse stood them up.

Dance-wise, it’s the perfect choreography to showcase a strong ballet corps. A couple of dozen villagers perform a series of pretty folk dances in the first act. It’s all very light and airy and fun. Even the second act in the eerie toy maker’s shop is full of playfulness and flirtation. And the final festive act features the very brief wedding of Swanilda and Franz, the “Waltz of the Hours” danced by a full complement of dancers, and the solo performances of principal Brooke Moore, and dancers Caralin Curcio and Rachel Maher as “Dawn,” “Prayer” and “Spinner.”

The company’s dancers are wholly strong and disciplined. Lauren Fadeley is a happy-go-lucky, cheeky Swanilda with a million-dollar smile and impressive muscularity, while her dashing athletic Franz, danced by Francis Veyette, is her husband in real life. They have a witty repartee, perfect for their roles and a delight for the audience.

The accompaniment for this ballet, performed live by the National Arts Centre Orchestra under the baton of American music director and conductor Beatrice Jona Affron, is the charming, graceful and melodic score of 19th-century French composer Léo Delibes. It’s a perfect collaboration.

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From → Ballet

One Comment
  1. Emily C. permalink

    Jill had stage fright. They had to sedate her for the other shows.

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