I reviewed for the San Francisco Classical Voice:
“Coppélia arrived at the War Memorial Opera House Saturday looking like it has always belonged there.
And it’s true that this 1870 ballet — with its long-lost original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon, and its long-beloved score by Léo Delibes — has deep connections to the San Francisco Ballet of today. Coppélia was the first full-length ballet that S.F. Ballet founding father Willam Christensen staged here, back in 1939 when the company was the San Francisco Opera Ballet. It’s also a ballet dear to current Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, who danced Franz in the version of the work choreographed by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova in 1974. Tomasson had long wanted to bring that Coppélia to San Francisco, but he assumed the Balanchine Trust would require reconstructing the 1974 sets and costumes, making the project too expensive. Then another former New York City Ballet dancer — Peter Boal, now head of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet — called and said he’d been told new sets and costumes were permissible, and would S.F. Ballet like to share the production and split the costs?
Answering “yes” must have felt as natural as it has proven smart. Saturday’s premiere, staged with keen attention to detail by Judith Fugate, was delightful from start to finish. If audience reaction seemed warm rather than wild, that speaks to Coppélia’s mood of gentle enjoyment and its ease of fit on these dancers.
With all the emphasis on Balanchine as a “plotless” choreographer, dance lovers often overlook the gift that powers the inherent drama of his larger oeuvre of abstract ballets: his skill as a storyteller.
In this Coppélia, which he and Danilova based on her memories of Marius Petipa’s 1884 version at Russia’s Maryinsky Ballet, the first thing our heroine, Swanilda, does after her entrance is deliver an extensive passage of mime.”
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