Tag Archives: E. T. A. Hoffmann

Cleveland Ballet to Perform Newly Enhanced Version of Ramón Oller’s ‘Coppélia’


Lauren Stenroos and Alfredo “Freddy” Rodriguez rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

By Steve Sucato

Cleveland Ballet closes out perhaps its most successful mainstage season to date with a reprise of their 2016 hit, Ramón Oller’s adaptation of the comic ballet Coppélia. The first full-length ballet production created on the now 5-year-old company returns to Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre for three performances on April 5 & 6.

“It’s very dear to us,” says company artistic director Gladisa Guadalupe.  “When Ramón [Oller] first choreographed the ballet it was on a young company. Now to bring it back four years later, the company is bigger and the dancers are stronger artistically and technically.”

Based on two tales by E. T. A. Hoffmann, the ballet originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon in 1870 to music by composer Léo Delibes, tells the story of eccentric inventor Dr. Coppélius who makes life-size dancing dolls including his beloved Coppélia who he desperately desires to bring to life. Seeing the lifelike doll Franz, a village youth, becomes infatuated with it to the detriment of his relationship with his intended Swanilda. Through a series of humorous encounters the unlikely trio of Franz, Swanilda and Coppélius become entangled in a web of mistaken identity, misdirection and mischievousness that by ballet’s end once again confirms the adage that true love conquers all.

Oller, a native of Esparreguera, Spain, is an award-winning choreographer who has created ballets for Compañía Nacional de Danza, National Ballet of Spain and New York’s Ballet Hispánico. For his 80-minute 2-act adaptation of Coppélia, also set to Delibes’ music, he says he was inspired by the 1966 film El fantástico mundo del doctor Coppelius. For the most part his version follows the traditional Coppélia storyline. Where things differ is in the second act in his revealing more of Dr. Coppélius’ longing for a family of his own and the idea of real versus imagined love. That comes to its pinnacle in an added dream sequence in which Coppélius dances a tender and more contemporary dance duet with Coppélia who imagines briefly comes to life. Oller also swaps the ballet’s conventional folk dances and mazurkas for fast-paced and intricate partnering work showcasing the talents of the company.


Cleveland Ballet dancers rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

Rainer Diaz and Cleveland Ballet dancers rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

A cast of 49 including dancers from the company, apprentices, trainees and students from The School of Cleveland Ballet, will take the stage for this reprise. As a reflection of the aforementioned growth of Cleveland Ballet as a company, Oller has made some changes to improve the production including beefing up sections of the choreography to make them more challenging and exciting, and adding more life-size dolls to second act scenes in Dr. Coppélius’ workshop such as Pierrot and Columbine Dolls and a Duke and Duchess pair.

Reprising their roles from 2016, Oller will once again portray the role of the wizard-like doll maker Dr. Coppélius, Elena Cvetkovich, the Coppélia doll, and Bath-native Lauren Stenroos in the role spirited lead role of Swanilda alongside new partner Alfredo “Freddy” Rodriguez as her love interest Franz.


Lauren Stenroos and Alfredo “Freddy” Rodriguez rehearsing Coppélia. Photo by New Image Photography.

“Lauren’s evolution as a dancer over the years has been amazing,” says Oller. “She controls the stage.”

And in keeping with Guadalupe’s vision for Cleveland Ballet as being a lean and mobile troupe with a repertory suitable for touring, Oller’s Coppélia will feature minimal sets in favor of tour-friendly lighting effects and images created by nationally known lighting designer Trad A. Burns.

“I love the simplicity of the ballet,” says Oller. “The most important thing is the story and the dance. This production is very alive.”

Cleveland Ballet performs Ramón Oller’s Coppélia, 8 p.m., Friday, April 5 and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 6; Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Tickets are $25-79 and available by calling (216) 241-6000 or  playhousesquare.org. For group sales: (216) 640-8603. More information at clevelandballet.org.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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Cleveland Ballet’s Reenvisioned ‘Coppélia’ a Triumph


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Cleveland Ballet’s Lauren Stenroos as Swanilda and Nicholas Montero as Franz in Ramón Oller’s “Coppélia.” Photo by Mark Horning.

Cleveland Ballet – Coppélia
Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square
Cleveland, Ohio
May 13-14, 2016

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

For Gladisa Guadalupe’s new Cleveland Ballet, the decision to hire Spanish choreographer Ramón Oller to create its very first story ballet was genius. The world-premiere of Oller’s re-envisioned Coppélia, May 13 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre was just what Cleveland’s newest resident ballet company needed to advance its goals of becoming a force on the local dance scene and beyond.

The comic ballet, choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon in 1870 to music by composer Léo Delibes, is based on tales by E. T. A. Hoffmann and is about eccentric inventor Dr. Coppélius who makes life-size dancing dolls including his beloved Coppélia, and the mishaps that happen when local villagers mistake her for real.

Oller’s new 80-minute production began with him in the role of Dr. Coppélius, magically directing Coppélia (Elena Cvetkovich) in a contemporary dance solo that revealed the nature of Dr. Coppélius’ feelings for the doll and his Pinocchio-like obsession to make her real. From there the ballet’s storyline followed tradition with village lad Franz, danced by Spaniard Nicholas Montero of New York City’s Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, becoming enamored with Coppélia and threatening his relationship with his intended Swanilda, portrayed marvelously by Cleveland-area’s Lauren Stenroos.

The biggest difference in Oller’s choreography over other ballet versions was replacing much of the Saint-Léon’s (and later Marius Petipa’s) mazurkas and other folk dances with beefier and more technically challenging dancing for Cleveland Ballet’s compact troupe of four male/female couples. The vibrant choreography included for the men, lots of jumps and turns in the air, and for the women, rapid turns on pointe and leaps. Not only did Oller’s choreography sit well on the young troupe, it also breathed new life into an often stale ballet classic.

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Cleveland Ballet’s Nicholas Montero (L) and dancers in Ramón Oller’s “Coppélia.” Photo by Mark Horning.

It was clear from the sparse set design of the façade of Dr. Coppélius house and little else, that Guadalupe and Cleveland Ballet Board Chairman Michael Krasnyansky chose to put their modest production budget as a startup company into the ballet’s dancing. It paid off. The company was well rehearsed performed the charming ballet with conviction.

The remainder of the ballet’s first act played out as it usually does with Franz’s eyes wandering toward Coppélia who sat in a balcony window, and Stenroos as Swanilda, deliciously pouting and rebuking his insincere apologies over it.

Oller’s somewhat slapstick choreography injected plenty of humor into the act which the young cast at times had trouble not telegraphing in bouts of forced acting. One perfectly timed and delivered moment however, saw Montero whip his leg in the air in a half circle just as Stenroos keenly ducked to avoid it.

After some festivities celebrating the engagement of Franz and Swanilda that included an obligatory dance featuring students from the School of Cleveland Ballet and its Youth Ballet Company (including a few talents we may see in the company in future), the first act ended with Dr. Coppélius dropping his house key after a scuffle with some village boys, and Swanilda finding it and she and her female companions entering Coppélius’ house to confront Coppélia. Not long after, Franz did the same via a ladder at the house’s balcony window.

As delightful as the ballet’s first act was, its second act proved even better.

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Cleveland Ballet’s Lauren Stenroos as Swanilda (L) and Elena Cvetkovich as Coppélia (R) in Ramón Oller’s “Coppélia.” Photo by Mark Horning.

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Ramón Oller as Dr. Coppélius in “Coppélia.” Photo by Mark Horning.

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Cleveland Ballet dancers in Ramón Oller’s “Coppélia.” Photo by Mark Horning.

Once in the house Swanilda and friends discovered a treasure trove of mechanical dolls, some costumed in the garb of other nations, while others looked like stitched dolls awaiting one. Accidently activated, the dolls danced for the girls’ amusement and also signaled Dr. Coppélius of their presence in his workshop. In quick order Coppélius chased all but Swanilda out. She, discovering Coppélia is a doll, pretends to be her. Franz arrives only to be cornered by Coppélius who drugs him and casts a spell to transfer his life force into Coppélia. After a clever series of duets and interactions between Oller and Stenroos pretending to be Coppélia, Dr. Coppélius’ plans go awry and the young couple escapes, leaving him in an emotional shamble.

The ballet’s finest moments came in a newly created fantasy scene (with lighting by Trad Burns) that followed, in which Coppélius dreamed of dancing with Coppélia and that all was forgiven between him Franz, Swanilda and the village folk. In it, Oller created a marvelous contemporary dance for Cvetkovich as Coppélia who danced it with feeling, and a passionate pas de deux for Montero and Stenroos filled with gracefully sweeping movement and arcing lifts that the pair adroitly executed. The cast’s other professional dancers then joined in a wedding celebration for Franz and Swanilda replete with nicely-crafted choreography to conclude the entertaining ballet.

The fantasy scene heralded the wonderful potential of this new Cleveland Ballet and left the audience wanting more. Kudos to Oller and cast, along with the inspired performances of Montero, Stenroos, Cvetkovich and dancers Victor Jarvis, Lüna Sayag and Jonathan Leonard.

With the success of Coppélia, Cleveland Ballet is sure to garner new fans of the company. And for those taking a wait and see approach toward the new company, wait no more.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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Cleveland Ballet Takes Next Big Step With New Coppélia Production


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Photo By New Image Photography.

By Steve Sucato

Things are progressing nicely for Gladisa Guadalupe’s Cleveland Ballet. The fledgling company with the familiar name, was introduced to local audiences last October at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre in a mixed repertory program with Neos Dance Theatre as part of its preview season. The production  ignited interest in the city’s newest resident ballet company that Guadalupe and company hope to fuel with the world premiere of Ramón Oller’s Coppélia, the company’s first major standalone production.

The company, led and partially bankrolled by, Guadalupe and local businessman and Board Chairman Michael Krasnyansky, PhD, is a 10-member troupe of young professional dancers. Since last October the company has made a number of small appearances around the city including teaming up with The Cleveland Orchestra in April for its family concert Gotta Dance! Those performances had have helped prep the dancers for perhaps their biggest challenge to date, Oller’s technically demanding reinterpretation of Coppélia.

A native of Esparreguera in the province of Barcelona, Spain, Oller is an award-winning choreographer who has created ballets for Compañía Nacional de Danza, National Ballet of Spain and New York’s Ballet Hispánico, which is reviving his 1998 work “Bury Me Standing” this season.

The comic ballet Coppélia, originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to music by composer Léo Delibes in 1870, is based on two tales by E. T. A. Hoffmann that tell the story of eccentric inventor Dr. Coppélius who makes life-size dancing dolls including his beloved Coppélia who he desperately desires to bring to life. Seeing the lifelike doll Franz, a village youth, becomes infatuated with it to the detriment of his relationship with his intended Swanilda. Through a series of ludicrous events the unlikely trio become embroiled in a humorous case of mistaken identity, misdirection and mayhem that by ballet’s end once again confirms that true love conquers all.

Oller’s new 80-minute, multi-media version of Coppélia, also set to Delibes’ music, he says was inspired by the 1966 film El fantástico mundo del doctor Coppelius. It starred Walter Slezak as Dr. Coppelius and featured the ballet company and orchestra of the Gran Teatro del Liceo of Barcelona along with Dame Alicia Markova who was an artistic consultant on the film.

Like Paris Opera Ballet’s 1996 version choreographed by Patrice Bart, Oller condenses the ballet from its usual three acts to two. For the most part he says his version will follow the ballet’s original storyline, especially in the first act. Where things differ is that the ballet is set in the middle part of the 20th century instead of the early 19th and plays up more Dr. Coppélius’ longing for a family of his own and the idea of real versus imagined love.

The biggest changes come in the ballet’s second act with the addition of a dream sequence in which the style of ballet’s dancing transitions from classical ballet to more contemporary dance movement.

Starring as the sweet but feisty Swanilda will be Bath-native Lauren Stenroos. She describes Oller as a very gifted choreographer who can identify and utilize each individual dancer’s strengths.

“He saw things in my dancing I didn’t,” says Stenroos. “He wants us to dance with no inhibitions and not think about the movement but feel it from an emotional place.”

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Cleveland Ballet company members. Courtesy of Cleveland Ballet.

Dancing the role of  Swanilda’s mischievous love interest Franz, will be Nicholas Montero. The Spaniard is one of a handful of guest dancers from New York City’s Joffrey Ballet Concert Group. The pre-professional troupe ─ not to be confused with Joffrey Ballet of Chicago ─ regularly tours the United States and in 2013 opened the Florence Dance Festival in Italy. Another JBCG dancer to watch is Lüna Sayag. The talented Parisian who understudies Stenroos, will dance the role of one of Swanilda’s friends. Oller will perform the role of Dr. Coppélius with Elena Cvetkovich as Coppélia. The cast also includes some 30-dancers from the School of Cleveland Ballet and its Youth Ballet Company in supporting roles.

In keeping with Guadalupe’s vision for the new Cleveland Ballet as being a lean and mean troupe with a diverse repertory suitable for touring, Oller’s Coppélia will forego bulky wooden sets and expensive painted drops in favor of tour-friendly lighting effects and images created by nationally known lighting designer Trad A. Burns.

In many ways Coppélia represents the new Cleveland Ballet’s first big test.  The production is an ambitious one. In watching rehearsals of it, Oller doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to challenging Cleveland Ballet’s young dancers with his choreography. Further intriguing is unlike other familiar story ballets (The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty) that have seen countless reinterpretations, a new interpretation of  Coppélia is a rarity in this country. It’s something area dance fans will not want to miss.

Cleveland Ballet performs Ramón Oller’s Coppélia, 7 p.m., Friday, May 13 and 1 p.m., Saturday, May 14; Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. $20-$49. (216) 241-6000 or playhousesquare.org. For group sales: (216) 640-8603. More information at clevelandballet.org.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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