Coppélia (Première): January 27th, 2019 (Vienna State Ballet)
Pierre Lacotte's precise restoration of Coppélia” took place in the early '70s in the Paris Opera and I still remember, by the middle of this decade, to have been quite impressed by Ghislaine Thesmar and Michael Dennard (a very special idol”) in it. Pierre Lacotte referred to not only as a choreographer but also as a “dance archaeologist”(I could not agree more!), included in his restored version even parts that had been deleted in 1872 . His picturesque version won lasting success in Paris. Now we have a chance to watch it again in Vienna. This is another one of Manuel Legris' conquests in broadening the “horizons”of audiences and the repertoire of the Vienna State Ballet. And I have the opportunity to “rethink” about the different versions I have been lucky enough to watch, including the hilarious Roland Petit's one.
Usually I never start a critic/review by mentioning the principals but my rules are made to be broken by me and I simply have to begin this time with Denys Cherevychko and Natascha Mair, a fact that is most obvious to the ones who were lucky enough to be able to be present at this most awaited première/production.
A few minutes after the evening had started it was quite obvious that the main couple was at ease, enjoying their own roles and each other's company on stage: “Bathing” in Mr Jacques Giovanangeli's soft lighting, they were brought to a certain contrast of lightness and darkness that much contributed to the effects. I keep thinking of the moment in which Swanilda (Natascha Mair) leaves her home for the first time...
But this “easiness” to be “in” the roles is just achieved by hard work. That is the point I would like to refer to: Natascha Mair's and Denys Cherevychko's pinpointed work was present from the beginning on till the very end of the show. It may not sound extremely important but for a balletomane it makes all the difference to witness clean Piqués Arabesque and Pas-de-Chats (on her first variation of the first Act) as well as his sharp, precise Jetés, also at the beginning of Act I. Yes, it makes all the difference to realize that these soloists pin pointedly gave attention and concentration to every single detail, from the beginning on, even if there was still so much to come.
Both roles are a Tour de force for them: she (exactly one month after she was promoted to a principal) delightful as Swanilda, doing a wonderful imitation of Coppélia in the second Act. He, enjoying the boyish charms of Franz, with a sort of pukish sense of humour: funny, witty, naughty, audacious and sometimes even charmingly impertinent!
We were given technically amazing moments and I hope that the audience had that certain “ballet knowledge” to value it: Miss Mair's fabulous manége on the first act that redefines some Physics' rules, Mr Cherevychko's tours en l'air, in the third Act, which are always finished a la seconde and his extremely clean pirouette preparations, being one of the few dancers that I know that do not “push back” in the opposite direction in order to get a proper “impulse”.
Apart from the praise for the beautiful pas de deux and variations in the third act, I must only say that Swanilda's solo variation was played a little bit too quickly for my taste and that this is the only part of the ballet which I still prefer in the ABT version (the play with Balance in a very, very slow way). Nevertheless it must be said that it is pure joy to watch those gifted performers as Swanilda and Franz: joviality is definitely the key-word and the reason why they have conquered the audience!
Alexis Forabosco nearly stole the show with his wonderful display of Coppélius. It is good to see this experienced dancer once more on stage. It had been quite a long time since I saw him last.
Nina Tonoli managed to win the audience as Aurora. A lovely display of style and charm given by an extremely gifted dancer.
James Stephens and beautiful Madison Young were more than delightful as Dusk and Night. A very effectful but extremely difficult and tiring pas de deux (because of the endless lifts) but Mr Stephens has already proved in the past that he is a great Partner - a quality that seems to be disappearing nowadays. Miss Young brought a new quality to her stage persona. Extremely romantic, as if filled with a sort of splendour, insight and luminosity that I had never seen before on her. The audience was delighted.
Scott McKenzie and Arne Vandervelde were extremely strong as the “grooms”. A difficult variation which they have masterly performed.
The corps de ballet could have been a bit more precise in their rendition of the “Mazurka”. Not very homogenous when it came to lateral upper body movements (From my place I could face Miss Céline Janou Weder very well and she gave the right emphasis to these movements). Also the girls' entrance in the third act (which made Dennys Cherevychko's exit from stage a bit awkward!) need some work for a better homogeneity, specially in the “head department”.
I personally enjoyed choreographically the Pas de Bottes very much, even if Miss Oxana Kiyanenko, with a frozen smile, seemed to be "marking" it all the way but it may be because it is quite difficult to project one's personality while dancing side by side with dancers like Gala Jovanovic, Igor Milos, Gabor Oberegger and Alexandru Tcacenco. Not only gifted but very experienced dancers that know how to project themselves till the last row.
All in all, a most enjoyable evening with lots of surprises. Even if the third Act is a kind of “Divertissement” and you know what to expect from a Ballet from the 1870s with LOTS of (hierarchical) French tradition, you'll be delighted. Lovely costumes based on the original drafts from 1870, beautiful scenery and the captivating score by Delibes.
I just must add that the stage at the “Volksoper” is definitely too small for such a production. I'd rather see it at the State Opera with that certain amplitude that would not only allow the dancers to dance more freely but also add the right effects to the choreography. To be quite honest, the stage was crowded, jammed even if the number of dancers (also couples) was somehow reduced. It would be nice to see it again the way it was intended to be.
Talking to Mr Legris after the performance, it was more than touching to hear such words: I am really proud of the company. And he has every right to do so! Chapeau!