Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Ballet, "Coppelia"

On Sunday afternoon May 22nd, we saw a very fine production of Leo Delibes' ballet "Coppelia," as delivered by the Milwaukee Ballet, with the original choreography by Arthur Saint-Leon augmented with new work by Michael Pink. The story of the mechanical doll that is mistaken for human is one of several works adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman's story,  Der Sandmann.

It was a different, but equally enjoyable, performance to that one that we had seen at the Vienna Staatsoper. I recall that ballet as being very technically brilliant, with great power and precision in the dancing, but perhaps by contrast with Milwaukee's, a bit remote. Pink is a very fine storytelling choreographer, and it is always easy for the audience to tell what is going on, even in his very lively crowd scenes. There is no doubt, for example, when the lead character, Swanhilda, is telling off her wandering-eyed boyfriend, Franz. The pas de ane when Swanhilda is trying to catch the attention of the Coppelia doll, believing at the time as they all do that she is a real woman, is a masterpiece of growing frustration as the automaton remains oblivious to her efforts. There were some good running gags, such as the Swanhilda's father who hasn't quite accepted yet that he can't keep up with the young men any longer. The ethnic dances such as the Czardas and the Mazurka were redone by Pink (perhaps drawing on Milwaukee's deep folk dance resources) with new authenticity. There were very handsome sets by Desmond Heeley who also provided gorgeous and (mostly)ethnically appropriate costume designs. (The festival dancer outfits which reach back to classical ballet are a not unpleasant exception.)

We saw the Friday/Sunday cast, lead by Julianne Kepley as Swanhilda, and David Hovhannisyan as Franz, both of whom were splendid. Kepley in particular both danced beautifully in a demanding role, but showed good comic timing as in trying to read over Dr. Coppelius' shoulder without his noticing, while the Doctor is trying to enchant the drugged Franz. The role of Coppelius was done as a non-dancing role, and very well done by actor Daniel Mooney. To make Coppelius a non-dancer is one of the standard options for this ballet, but making this choice was one area where we felt the production was weaker than Vienna's, who gave Coppelius a very dynamic dancing role.

We were very pleased with this production overall, and felt that Pink and the Milwaukee Ballet have become a first-class company.

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Tags: ballet, coppelia
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