The National Dance Company of the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) presented Coppélia, a ballet of traditional classical repertoire featuring an ensemble cast and performed in the Main Hall of the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). The performances ran for two weekends at Bellas Artes, with its final performance last Sunday, April 24.
The principle characters of Swanilda and Franz were brought to life by different pairs of dancers; Mayuko Nihei and Argenis Montalvo, Agustina Galizzi and Erick Rodíguez, and Ana Elisa Mena and Robert Rodríguez, as choreographed by Enrique Martínez. The choreography is based on the Marius Petipa revival version, created for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg in the late 19th century. The music is based on the score by Léo Delilbes, which was written for the original presentation in 1870, in Paris.
The Main Hall of the Palacio de Bellas Artes is an architectural artwork in itself, beautifully presenting any production performed on this stage. The set design and costumes were gorgeously rendered by Eugenio Servin, whether they represented a European provincial town square or Dr. Coppelius’ workshop.
Tihui Gutiérrez, one of the company’s maestras, explained in an interview that in repertory and classical ballets, the company has the responsibility of injecting new blood into the roles and reinventing them. “Therefore it is very important that the dancers take each character as if it were fresh and new, to offer the public a verisimilitude in each of the functions.”
Each dancer brings a different temperament to the role; while Argenis Montalvo is a young dancer who first participated in this ballet last year, Erick Rodríguez is a mature and consolidated performer, and Roberto Rodríguez has a particular impetuosity. “Each of them gives it a touch of his very own character, so these archetypes are perceived slightly differently,” Gutiérerez said.
The first version of Coppélia was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon, libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter, along with the music of Delibes, and was produced by the Paris Opera. It premiered on May 25, 1870, during the last phase of the Second French Empire, before an audience that included Napoleon III and his wife, Empress Eugenia.
In Mexico it has appeared on several occasions. In 1947 the Ballet de la Ciudad de México presented it with some scenes choreographed by Nellie Campobello, Enrique Velezzi and Gloria Campobello. In 1951, the Nelsy Dambré Ballet presented it with Dambre’s own choreography, from the version of Louis Mérante.
The Ballet Concierto de Mexico staged the ballet with choreographed by Felipe Segura in 1957. That same version was presented in 1971 by the Classical Ballet of Mexico and subsequently by the National Dance Company, as adapted by Alicia Alonso, from Leon Fokine’s version in 1975. in 1989, the National Dance Company premiered the transposition that Enrique Martínez made for the American Ballet Theatre in 1968.
“For us, the most difficult thing is to be faithful to the Coppélia version of Enrique Martínez, considering that premiered in 1989. However, each performer gives their personal touch. The choreography, steps, musicality, gestures and facial expressions should be left as the choreographer designed it, and we are very careful in respect to that, because otherwise choreographers would not release us their versions,” Gutiérrez said.
Coppélia is very technically difficult for even the most experienced dancers. “Normally in classical ballets the technicality increases over the course, but in this case the curtain opens and Swanilda has a very strong variation, plus in the second act she dances the entire time. It is an important technical challenge and important resistance, but which must also be telling the story.”