Conductor Jonathan McPhee on animating ‘Coppélia’ for Boston Ballet

“One of my favorite spots is when the doll first comes to life. You see her breath swell, and the music just lifts. It’s so dramatically perfect,” says Boston Ballet’s Jonathan McPhee.
“One of my favorite spots is when the doll first comes to life. You see her breath swell, and the music just lifts. It’s so dramatically perfect,” says Boston Ballet’s Jonathan McPhee.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

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When Boston Ballet music director and principal conductor Jonathan McPhee steps to the podium Thursday night for the opening performance of “Coppélia,” it will be the sixth production of the ballet he has conducted. A tale of dreams versus reality, set in motion by a beautiful doll apparently come to life, “Coppélia” is one of the most popular ballets in the repertoire, originally staged in 1870, with a groundbreaking score by Léo Delibes.

Q. Many consider this the first great score written for the ballet. Do you agree?

A. In modern terms, yes — this is the modern ballet orchestra. “Coppélia” really is an operetta score, the first example in ballet of a real brass section, a lot more percussion, more colorful music.

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