“Romeo and Juliet” isn’t the only ballet with a pretty girl on a balcony and an admiring boy down below. In “Coppélia,” however, the boy, Frantz, already has a sweetheart, Swanilda. As for Coppélia, the girl on the balcony, Dr. Coppélius’s “daughter,” she’s a doll — the clockwork kind. Fortunately, the boy figures it out by the end. “Coppélia” is one of the sweetest works in the repertoire, and the current Boston Ballet production, highlighted opening night by Misa Kuranaga’s Swanilda, is an absolute charmer.
Based loosely on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 tale “Der Sandmann,” “Coppélia” debuted in Paris in 1870, but the version Boston Ballet is presenting, as it did in 2010 and 2013, is the excellent one George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova did for New York City Ballet in 1974. The scene is Eastern Europe; the set is a cozy, cartoon-like village square, with weatherbeaten ocher buildings — one sporting an onion dome — towering against a windblown sky. Léo Delibes’s effervescent score got a well-paced performance Thursday, March 21, from music director Mischa Santora and the Boston Ballet Orchestra.
The first act finds Frantz in the doghouse after Swanilda catches him blowing kisses up at Coppélia. The villagers dance a mazurka and a csárdás; a banner announces an upcoming bell festival. When Swanilda and her girlfriends stumble upon crotchety Coppélius’s front-door key, they sneak into his workshop to look at his clockwork dolls while he’s out. Frantz, meanwhile, has a ladder and his eye on that balcony.
In the second act, Coppélius returns and chases the girls out, but Swanilda, to avoid getting caught, pretends to be Coppélia. When Frantz arrives, Coppélius slips him a mickey and, using a magic spell, tries to transfer Frantz’s essence to Coppélia, sacrificing him to bring her to life. Swanilda plays along for a while, pretending that Coppélia is coming to life. Once Coppélius realizes that it’s actually Swanilda, he’s disillusioned, and Frantz, once awake, is chastened and forgiven. The third act offers both their wedding and that bell festival, with two dozen Boston Ballet student girls dancing the “Waltz of the Golden Hours” and a typical village day’s activities depicted by ballerinas representing Dawn, Prayer, and Spinner (i.e., spinning work). War and Discord briefly intervene before the bride and groom’s pas de deux restores peace.
Kuranaga was the opening-night Swanilda in both 2010 and 2013. This time out she’s more expressive than ever. She pouts when Coppélia doesn’t respond to her waltzed invitation to come down and chat, she feigns high dudgeon when Frantz strays, and in the second act she toys with Coppélius, a naughty child entranced one second and bored the next. Her dancing — the speed, the playful phrasing, the crisp control — has always been a joy to watch.
Derek Dunn is a boyishly naive Frantz, looking to the audience for understanding after miming his love for both Swanilda and Coppélia. He and Kuranaga weren’t the most comfortable partners Thursday, but individually in the pas de deux they lit up the stage with their pyrotechnics. Isaac Akiba brought out the sweet side of Coppélius, a man totally devoted to his “daughter.”
In the creditable third-act divertissements, with Maria Baranova as Dawn, Rachele Buriassi as Prayer, María Álvarez as Spinner, and Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili as War and Discord, it was Álvarez’s high-flying energy that stood out. But this act really belongs to the kids, and led by Dalay Parrondo (who had the same role opening night in 2010), they were delightfully spontaneous and yet thoroughly professional. As for the ballet’s concluding galop, it’s a riot of pas emboîtés culminating in the trumpets’ call to cancan. Thursday it was one of those finales you wish would never end.
Choreography by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova. Music, Léo Delibes. Set, Robert O’Hearn and Benjamin J. Phillips. Costumes, Kenneth Busbin and Robert O’Hearn. Lighting, Mark Stanley. Presented by Boston Ballet, with the Boston Ballet Orchestra conducted by Mischa Santora. At Citizens Bank Opera House, through March 31. Tickets $37-$169. 617-695-6955, www.bostonballet.org
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.