Two "Coppelia" casts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon: two fine but very different Swanildas.
In the Saturday performance, Martine van Hamel played the role as the Lilac Fairy in disguise: regal, calm, more than a little above it all. Indeed, Van Hamel's characteristic steadiness as a dancer made those major tests of balance in the last act seem mere trifles--easily vanquished--while the broken motions of the Act II doll dance served as a big contrast to her prevailing style.
Sunday afternoon, Magali Messac unleashed a Swanilda with a strong family resemblance to the tempestuous but forlorn heroine of John Cranko's "Taming of the Shrew." With ceaseless invention and a betwitching mastery of pantomime, she got laughs, captured hearts and managed to dispatch all of the role's technical difficulties as if they were games--between her and Franz, between them and us.
An ardent, charming and empty-headed Franz, Patrick Bissell partnered both Van Hamel and Messac strongly, but provided highly problematic solo dancing on Saturday--unstretched jumps, rough terminations, messy port de bras . Sunday afternoon found him more in control, but even when he got everything right, he never made it look easy.