Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet
London Coliseum; July 12, 2013
The Stanislavsky Ballet in Coppelia. Photo Stanislavsky Ballet.jpg [ 29.84 KiB | Viewed 4017 times ]
In London for four nights only, the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet’s presentation of Roland Petit’s Coppélia relied much on the pull of Sergei Polunin. On this evening, though, Franz was danced by Dmitry Sobolevsky, who as a character fell behind both the energetic corps and Anton Domashev’s excellent Dr. Coppélius, despite finding fantastic height in his jetés and easily securing his double tours.
Set in a garrison town, Petit’s “Coppélia” offers a fairly modern take on a true classic, while still injecting bursts of humour into the choreography and evoking a sense of intrigue regarding the nature of Dr Coppélius’ intent. Despite this, much of the action appeared too staged and there was a lack of personal engagement with the plot by the dancers. The technique presented was flawless and the classical performances rousing enough, but there did not appear to be much naturalism or sense of ease from the ultimately ‘Barbie and Ken’ leads. Natalia Somova in particular was rather wooden in her approach to the dual role of Swanhilda/doll. Her fixed expression became rather tedious and uninspiring although she certainly showed nimble feet and elastic legs.
Whilst not unenjoyable, this version dismisses much of Act 3 from the proceedings and does not present some of the moments usually considered integral to the plot. The Ear of Corn pas de deux, for example, is glazed over without any corn, the chosen movement unfortunately ignoring some of the most poignant and telling parts of the score, not least where Swanhilda discovers Franz does not love her. Whilst by now Sobolevsky and Somova’s performance was a little more heartfelt than previously, it only hinted at the ructions in the relationship.
The presence of the corps and Dr Coppélius prevented the work from disappearing completely, however. Domashev truly commanded Act 2, leading the audience into his dinner date with Coppélia; a far cry from his usual unnerving loneliness which is often conveyed in other version. As a suave and slicked-back gentleman, his pre-dinner dance with his doll was an entertaining and effective comic ‘pas de deux.’ Rather like a ventriloquist and his puppet, he was grand in his theatrical gestures and rather likeable, even turning his disagreement with Franz in into a satisfying duet of mini-drama with witty consequence. As convincing as his characterisation and enthusiasm was though, the question as to why he made his doll remained unanswered.
The corps (soldiers and their ladies rather than villagers) were very convincing, providing some much needed life and enthusiastic relief into the lethargic Act 1. They were a stark contrast to Swanhilda and her simplistic, baby-faced and rather twee girlfriends. They showed individuality, which was a refreshing wash of narrative illusion from the largely technical and unconvincing one given by Franz and Swanhilda. The Mazurka and Czardas were filled with enthusiastic heel clips, humour and character. The dancers’ lively portrayals brought the stage to life. Living up to their lead, the male members of the corps executed clean double tours simultaneously.
Elsewhere in Act 2, Sobolevsky became much more watchable and passionate; a distinct improvement in his seemingly half-heartedness earlier in the evening. He went on to perform his solos with increased enthusiasm and an almost regal command of the stage. He is an excellent turner and there was plenty of elevation in his jetés. Somova’s Spanish and Scottish solos managed to look flashy and neat without being taxing.
For a Coppélia first timer, Petit’s light-hearted and humorous approach might make an ideal as an introduction to the production. The choreography is a clear step away from that of the classic production, which does bring a different vitality to the work, not least through the lack of predictability of movement, although there is an abundance of rather tiresome cutesy wiggling from Swanhilda and her friends. It’s the gaps in the plot that make it feel unfulfilling. Having said that, the cast embraced the choreography with intent and commitment, and both Sobolevsky and Somova’s performances did lend themselves to the production’s relatively restricted narrative