World peace was not established. No diseases were cured. Brexit was not resolved. Mysteries of life were not explored.
But frivolity has its place. Dancing George Balanchine’s “Coppélia,” the Boston Ballet brought some anxiety-free joy to the Boston Opera House stage Thursday evening.
Derived from the lighthearted but mysterious tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, “Coppélia” tells a story of a dancing doll, and the dim but lovable boy who grows infatuated with her. But the narrative and the dance are propelled by his true love, Swanilda, along with her friends and partners-in-crime. Swanilda shows Frantz the truth about his misplaced fancy—and has loads of fun doing it.
Misa Kuranaga danced the lead, spot-on as the fun-loving Swanilda. She mimics everyone, loves to dance, and sneaks into mysterious studios once in a while as well. Derek Dunn danced as her distracted beau and eventual husband, Frantz.
Balanchine remains the real star of this production. His 1974 version of “Coppélia”—there were multiple re-workings, dating back to 1870 original—infuses the story with unforgettable ensemble scenes, stylish solos and one grand pas-de-deux to cap it off.
Balanchine’s neo-classicism pervades Act I, a village scene where Coppélia the doll, Dr. Coppélius her creator (danced by Isaac Akiba), the flirting couple and all their friends get introduced. It’s an easy story to follow: “Coppélia” is mime theater, with extensive sight gags and physical communication to aid even the most distracted viewer.
The village celebrates the arrival of a new bell, with dancing in the town square. The soloists get their moments—both danced in youthful character. The Mazurka and Czardis presented by the ensembles scoop up the most attention though—the dancing symmetrically tense in Balanchine’s imagining, but light on its feet, and full of casual appeal.
The mime, the easygoing tale, and the characterful music fit the choreography brilliantly. Léo Delibes’s score is melodic and uncomplicated. Beautiful instrumental solos abound: short, emotionally charged phrases, often repeated for emphasis, make it music particularly suitable for movement.
The casting runs deep in “Coppélia,” employing nearly three dozen dancers and students from the Boston Ballet school. Dalay Parrondo, Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili also danced prominent solo roles, as did Maria Baranova—a sweet and slow variation in the waltz that celebrates Act III’s bell dedication scene—and Rachele Buriassi.
But this is Kuranaga’s turn. Dunn danced formidably as her not-so-sharp love match, but either solo or fronting her friends—an octet of beautifully rehearsed companions—Kuranaga’s Swanilda captured the imagination. Her comic acting—mimicking old Coppélius, or his life-like doll—and her mime skills swept the narrative along with country elegance.
This production, with Judith Fugate’s staging, was first presented by the company in 2010, and again in 2013 with Kuranaga as the lead. Sets (Robert O’Hearn and Benjamin Phillips) changed for each act, but it was Act III’s pastel construction, spring-like and festive for the bell unveiling, that drew applause.
Costuming—especially the ensemble outfits for Act I—was extravagantly conceived. Music director Mischa Santora led the pit orchestra on opening night solidly. Some chaos broke out in the War and Discord scene in Act III—dancers in one place, music going to another—but the orchestra played attentively, with confidence, throughout the evening.
Boston Ballet’s “Coppélia” runs through March 31 at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. For tickets and information visit www.bostonballet.org or call 617-695-6955.