"Coppelia" is a ballet of seemingly unresolved conflicts. It is a comedy with tragic undertones, its hero and heroine are basically unlikable, and its dances combine the sweetness of Dawn and Prayer with an invasion of helmeted creatures representing War and Discord. All conflicts are resolved by the end of the Balanchine-Danilova version of the 100-year-old classic, which received its first performance of the New York City Ballet season last night at the Kennedy Center.
The nonsense begins when Swanilda and her fickle boyfriend Frantz, intrigued by a girl who won't pay attention to them, separately break into her house, also the workshop of the village malcontent, Dr. Coppelius. Frantz is discovered and drugges. Swanilda, learning that the "girl" is really a doll, assumes her clothes and has a fine time convincing Coppelius that he has brought the doll (the Coppelia of the title) to life. The old man is heartbroken at the deception, but is bought off, and the penitent Frantz marries Swanilda. The third act "Festival of Bells," is an excuse for a marvelous suite of dances performed by soloists and 24 tiny Washington children and crowned by the wedding of Swaanila and Frantz, who undoubtedly deserve each other.
All this is told in a gloriuous combination of mime and dance, and the entire company gave a rousing performance. Patricia McBride is a consummate Swanilda, and last night both she and Helgi Tomasson, as Frantz, were in particularly fine form. Her balances and his beats and turns were the high points of two superb performances. Shaun O'Brien gave a subtle rendering of Coppelius as both maligned and malevolent, and Kyra Nichols and Joseph Duell, as War and Discord, stood out among the soloists.