The 2012-2013 Boston Ballet season is over!!!
The season went out on a high mark, however, with another story ballet to challenge my assertion that, “I don’t like story ballets.”
Okay, maybe I like them a little bit.
I hadn’t seen Coppélia before, though I knew the story. I did not know that this was another E.T.A. Hoffmann story, though (he of Nutcracker infamy!). Here Ashley Ellis can give you a bit of a synopsis:
It’s presented in three acts. The first takes place in a village square in Galicia where we meet Swanilda, Frantz, and Dr. Coppélius. Swanilda and Frantz, of course, are our two, not-exactly-star-crossed lovers. Swanilda is a silly girl, who, if she were in the modern age would probably be one of those girls posting 15 self-portraits on Facebook each day so that her friends could write, “OMG, why are you so pretty!!!” to which she would then reply, “Tks, bby. <3!" Frantz seems to be easily distracted by shiny things… or, at the very least, life-sized dolls… I guess men haven't changed much since Hoffmann's time. I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Relax, out there!
Anyway, there's the festival (because what village square is complete without a festival?) and lots of dancing. After which both Frantz and Swanilda break into Dr. Coppélius's house/workshop to investigate this curiously stunning but rather vacant-eyed attraction.
Which brings us to the second act in which we see inside the workshop and mind of the crazy doctor. He tries to bring his doll to life using the life force of the drugged/passed-out drunk Frantz (it never pays to climb into strange girls' windows!) not noticing that his doll looks strikingly different than when he left her. Hilarity ensues and our couple finally makes up and escapes back to the village square.
Where — Act Three — we have…. you guessed it! A wedding. And they all lived happily ever after.
Okay, the story is pretty goofy, but darling good fun. If you were looking to introduce a child to ballet I would say that this one is about ten thousand times better than Nutcracker. It's got a lot of the same (slightly creepy) elements… eccentric dude with a strange obsession of bringing toys to life, racially stereotyped Chinese finger-pointing character, and a happy ending. But the plot… well, I mean, at least there is one, and it lasts the entire show. And it's a lot more funny.
Now for the dancers and the dancing.
First, let me mention that there was a pre-curtain talk that we attended. My friend was buying a t-shirt for her daughter, so we missed the very beginning, but I believe the two adults speaking were teachers at the Boston Ballet School, and they were on stage with three wonderfully poised young ladies who are students at the school and were performing in the show that evening. Two represented the two ends of the age spectrum of children in the Waltz of the Golden Hours: Delia, a 10-year-old Intermediate I student, and Hannah, a 14-year-old Pre-Professional I student. The third was Alex, a 17-year-old Pre-Professional Trainee who appeared as the doll and also as one of the villagers/friends. While I was expecting to hear from some of the pros during this talk, it was a lovely treat to hear these three (and their teachers) speak. They expressed a completely unabashed love for ballet and were obviously thrilled to appear on stage. They answered the audience's questions with such sweet candor. All three expressed a hope to dance professionally one day. The youngest talked about the challenges of learning pointe, while the 14-year-old talked about the challenges of not always appearing so serious… things I can certainly relate to. It was fun to connect with this next generation of dancers and made me actually pay attention to the children during the Waltz of the Hours at the end (when I normally would be paying them no never-mind).
As for the pros.
We had Misa Kuranaga as our Swanilda who was simply wonderful. She was silly, slightly bratty, and yet altogether endearing — a lovely actress and a fantastically energetic and light-on-her-feet dancer. As for Frantz, well, I had to restrain myself from bursting into loud applause and cheers when I realized that Jeffrey Cirio was on stage. I think he may just be my favorite BB male dancer. He looks like he simply flies when he dances, but beyond that, his characterization was wonderful. The two together had lovely chemistry and transitioned beautifully from silly, young, jealous love to a more mature interaction at the end. The only slight mar in their exquisiteness came in the third act during their pas de deux… there were some moments where the holds were a bit shaky. Totally understandable based on the amount and quality of dancing they had done throughout the show, but not quite what I wanted to see after the seemingly effortless bounding they exhibited earlier in the show.
The other dancers that stood out to me were the four automatons in the second act, which I suppose sounds ridiculous seeing as they basically just sit there on stage. But to imagine, spending a whole act remaining nearly motionless and the only times you are in motion you have to appear to be mechanical… I would imagine it’s not nearly as easy as it would seem.
The sets were beautiful, as always. I particularly enjoyed Dr. Coppélius’s workshop which seemed an intriguing place to poke around in.
And, as always, the Boston Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of Jonathan McPhee performed brilliantly (though they didn’t rock the house quite as much as a couple weeks ago when they were banging out some Jack White tunes for Chroma).
All in all a wonderful finale to the season. Here’s a small taste for you (wondering if this was videoed the night I was there… looks to be the same cast!).
Now I must wait patiently until September when BB kicks off their 50th season with a free show on the Boston Common. But I’ve got my season subscription renewed (they offered it to me for the same bargain-basement price of $25 a ticket; I simply couldn’t resist!) and I’ll be ready to go when they are.
Cheers, Boston Ballet, for a spectacular 49th season. I’m honored that I had a seat for each of your pieces this year.