Oklahoma City Ballet opens its 40th Anniversary Season with the classical comedic ballet “Coppélia.” Based upon two works by E.T.A. Hoffmann, “Coppélia” concerns mysterious inventor Dr. Coppélius and the life-size doll he has created. Franz, the village swain, becomes infatuated with the doll due to its lifelike appearance.
Created at the end of the Romantic period, “Coppélia” shares elements of that movement, as well as late-19thcentury Russian choreography, some of which is still present in this production of the 141-year-old piece.
“I have chosen to present the ballet as close to the original intent as possible,” said Robert Mills, Oklahoma City Ballet artistic director. “Even the new choreography added by Jacob Sparso and myself was created in the same movement style, and the sets and costumes reflect the period in which the ballet is set.”
“Coppélia” is one of two full-length ballets bookending the season. After last year’s darker “Giselle,” Mills wanted to open with a more lighthearted, classical piece.
He said “Coppélia” is a great showcase for one of the company’s leading ballerinas, Miki Kawamura, playing the role of Swanhilda. Kawamura made her debut with the troupe in last season’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”
I have chosen to present the ballet as close to the original intent.
“People will see a very different side of Miki with this role,” said Mills. “Swanhilda is a very coquettish, feisty young woman, and Miki is wonderful about bringing out these aspects of the character.”
Yui Sato makes his debut opposite Kawamura in the lead role of Franz. Originally from Kyoto, Japan, he was accepted earlier this year to compete in the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Fla., where he made it to the final round.
“He is an exceptional dancer and has an engaging, youthful energy that is perfect for the role,” said Mills. “I think audiences will be excited to see this bravura performer.”
A 7:30 p.m. lecture on the history of “Coppélia” will precede Saturday’s opening, followed by a doll parade at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, where children are encouraged to bring their favorite dolls to the show.
Mills has worked tirelessly for three years to return Oklahoma City Ballet to a place of prominence in the local performing-arts community.
“It has been the hardest thing I have ever done,” he said. “But I would not change a thing, because it has been the most rewarding experience I have ever had as an artist.”