Friday, April 30, 2010

Top Ten Ballets - Coppélia

Here is Swanhilda's variation, while she's standing outside Dr. Coppélius' house, looking at the life-like Coppélia, with whom her fiancé is infatuated.

The story of Coppélia is a about a life-like doll; her creator, Doctor Coppélius; a man named Franz who is infatuated with Coppélia; and his fiancé, Swanhilda. Coppélia is so lifelike that Franz, a village swain (or redneck in today's society!), is infatuated with her, and sets her aside his true heart's desire, even though he is engaged to Swanhilda. Swanhilda becomes very jealous of Coppélia, not knowing she is just a doll. So, she and her girlfriends sneak into Dr. Coppélius' house to meet Coppélia. There they find a room full of mechanical, life-size dolls, and discover that Coppélia is just a doll.

In Act II, just as they are about to leave, Dr. Coppélius returns to his house, and Swanhilda quickly hides behind a curtain. Then, Franz arrives at the doctor's house to meet Coppélia. The doctor gets an idea, thinking he could kill Franz and use his life to make Coppélia come to life and no longer be a lonely bachelor. He offers Franz a drink, in which he has put a sleeping powder, and Franz falls asleep. Meanwhile, Swanhilda is changing into Coppélia's clothes and comes out of the closet, pretending to be the doll to show Franz his folly and to rescue him from the crazy doctor. Seeing Swanhilda dressed as Coppélia, Dr. Coppélius believes his magic has worked! However, Swanhilda awakens Franz and shows him Coppélia is just a doll.

Finally the two are married, but Dr. Coppélius interrupts, demanding compensation for the damage Swanilda caused. She offers her dowry, but her father intercedes to pay. The village joins Franz and Swanilda in celebrating their wedding. Even Dr. Coppélius can share their joy!

Coppélia Trivia
  • Originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon. Restaged by George Balanchine in 1974 for the New York City Ballet.
  • First performed in 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial de l´Opéra, with Giuseppina Bozzacchi in the principal role of Swanhilde, in Paris, France. 
  • It eventually it became the most-performed ballet at the Opera Garnier in Paris.
  • It is of the romantic ballet genre, and is also a comic ballet, unlike the tragic ballet of Giselle
  • (Excerpt taken from Coppélia is probably the best-known comedy ballet, and certainly it's the most often performed - but it's much more than just a funny piece. The premiere was attended by the leading figures of Parisian society. A breakaway from the sad, Romantic ballets of the day, Coppélia was an immediate success with its humor, vigorous national dances and brightness. It was created at a time when Paris was slipping from its position as the dance capital of the world, and the popularity of ballet was declining. Coppélia was the last hoorah for the Paris Opéra before it fell into decay.
Elisa Celis and Garry Avis in Ronald Hynd's production of Coppelia for English National Ballet
© Daria Klimentova

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