COPPÉLIA – A Gorgeous New Production at San Francisco Ballet

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Ballet’s sparkling brand new production of Balanchine’s Coppélia is totally enchanting. The stars came together for Saturday’s Opening Night performance, despite the torrential downpours and 60 mph gusts that slammed down and gushed around the War Memorial Opera House. Inside, the energy swirled around the virtuosic dancing of principal soloists Maria Kotchetkova as “Swanilda” and Gennadi Nedvigin as “Franz”, along with an unforgettable characterization of “Dr. Coppelius” by one of the Company’s most versatile stars, Damian Smith. A virtual rainbow served as the color pallet for the storybook sets and costumes created by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. Like spun sugars, the look is completely ravishing and ultimately magical.


Although Coppélia has not been around for decades, much of the score by French composer Leo Delibes is familiar, especially its Act I Waltz, Mazurka, and Czardas and the traditional selections appropriated from the composer’s La Source and Sylvia. The score, cherished by choreographer George Balanchine, was made luminous by conductor Martin West. The best in the Ballet world, Mr. West has a keen eye for the dancers and a wicked baton for matching final chords with finished landings

MARIA KOCHETKOVA – as “Swanilda”
Photo, Erik Tomasson

Maria Kotchetkova as “Swanilda” was sublime. Her acting chops have soared to a new level in this delightful romp that also demands the skills of a top drawer diva ballerina. Her petite frame and sweet visage make her the ideal choice for the role of a bride-to-be who must prove the fidelity of her lover who has suddenly developed a thing for a life-size mechanical doll. In this role of the flirtatious boyfriend “Franz”, Gennadi Nedvigin has completely proven himself as a Classical romantic lead. He is handsome and sexy, with spot-on technique. Rapturous applause followed his individual work in the final act Pas de deux. Come the curtain call, if ever there were a time when the Male Lead should have been brought a bouquet – this was it.

Photo, Erik Tomasson

As a comic ballet, Coppélia has all the requisites of the great dramatic favorites such as Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, including great ensemble pieces and cameo appearances for other principal dancers. In the middle of Act III comes the “Waltz of the Golden Hours” – a 7-part collection of exhibition dancing – essentially a celebration connected to the village’s dedication of a new set of bells and the wedding of Swanilda and Franz. In the solo spotlight were Sarah Van Patten in “Dawn” and the enigmatically beautiful Sofiane Sylve in “Prayer”. Opening the festivities were 24 very young ballerinas – all in amazing form, with unified gestures, precision poses, and adorned in the most exquisite tutus a little girl ever dreamed of. Hats off to SF Ballet trustee Dede Wilsey who seven years ago established the Diane B. Wilsey Tutu Fund.

“Costumes and sets are expensive for all the performing arts,” says Mrs. Wilsey, “so they’re the first thing to go when there’s a financial crunch. But you need them to create magic on stage. You need to entice people if you want to build an audience.”

Coppélia will be presented seven more times through Sunday, March 27th. Click on the date to order tickets on-line:
Tuesday, March 22nd at 8:00 PM
Wednesday, March 23rd at 7:30 PM
Thursday, March 24th at 8:00 PM
Friday, March 25th at 8:00 PM
Saturday, March 26th at 2:00 PM
Saturday, March 26th at 8:00 PM
Sunday, March 27th at 2:00 PM

Balanchine’s Coppélia. Photo, Erik Tomasson

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:

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