Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Coppelia Question #1: Do you take Coppelia seriously?


  • Please log in to reply
24 replies to this topic

#1 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,263 posts

Posted 15 May 2001 - 12:53 AM

"Coppelia" [there should be an accent, grave, I believe, over the "e" in French; in Danish, there's no accent. I'll be Danish on this thread :) ]

"Coppelia" is a ballet that's been a bit out of fashion lately -- a staple of semi-professional companies as a spring show, but no longer a vehicle for star ballerinas -- at least, not often. One of the most revolutionary things George Balanchine ever did was to stage a "Coppelia" in 1974, at the height of the triumph of post-modernism, two years after the Stravinsky Festival with its oh, so modern ballets. It was a year before I came to ballet, so I only know of the shock this caused second hand. But it did cause a shock.

So, with that preamble, and since we have posters of several generations here, do you take "Coppelia" seriously as one of the great ballets? Why or why not.

#2 Lukayev

Lukayev

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 15 May 2001 - 02:04 AM

Perhaps because it's one of the comic ballets, people put it second to such drama as Giselle and Swan Lake. But, I think, in light of how ballet is evolving, Coppelia is one of those 'gem' ballets. If it's survived this long, and the audience still finds it amusing, there must be some of that hidden 'stage magic' sprinkled on it somewhere.

Just as how the supreme control/girliness of Aurora, the different sides of Odette and Odile, and the wonder and excitement of Clara (Nutcracker) are essential personalities to learn, to become an animated doll or the owner of a hopelessly flirty boyfriend (Franz) is a challenge in itself.

So for me, I think Coppelia deserves to be on the list with the 'great ballets'. If we're considering the great Swanhildas then the ballet itself must have a legacy too, right?

Ta!
Luka

#3 Juliet

Juliet

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 721 posts

Posted 15 May 2001 - 04:10 PM

As far as the score is concerned: yes.

For the enjoyment it has given people: yes.

Plot? Weeeeeeelllllll.......

#4 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,263 posts

Posted 15 May 2001 - 04:23 PM

I agree with Luka. I think people sometimes don't take "Coppelia" seriously because it's a comedy. There are actors who will tell you that often comedy is more difficult to bring off than tragedy, and I think comedy tells us just as much, if not more, of the human condition than tragedy.

Also, as Juliet noted, the score is a fine one and, like "Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake," probably one of the main reasons why "Coppelia" has endured.

#5 leibling

leibling

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 209 posts

Posted 15 May 2001 - 09:23 PM

I used to not give a lot of credit to Coppelia, but then I saw a video relatively recently from which I learned that there is substance to this ballet. It deals with love and forgiveness in a comic fashion, and I thought it looked rather challenging, technically. Furthermore, my experience tells me that it is true that tragedy is easier to play than comedy... you have to have good comic timing, for one thing.

#6 Giannina

Giannina

    Gold Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 844 posts

Posted 15 May 2001 - 11:41 PM

leibling...what video did you see? Is it commercially available?

Giannina

#7 cargill

cargill

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 645 posts

Posted 16 May 2001 - 12:41 PM

I vote for it being a great ballet, in part of course because of the score. But Sylvia and Raymonda have wonderful scores, and they have not endured as well. Coppelia also has a very clear, interesting plot, which is well-developed with a lot of variety, and believable characters. It has enough depth (illusion vs reality, man's pride of creation, etc.) to save it from complete frivolity.

#8 Drew

Drew

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,296 posts

Posted 21 May 2001 - 07:39 PM

I strongly agree that the score plays a role in Coppelia's being a major ballet -- but also the story, which is loosely (admitedly, very loosely) based on a Hoffman story that has generated volumes of interpretation including a very famous essay by Freud. Just the human/mechanical opposition gives the ballet a deeply resonant theme, and one it shares with other major art works; it's a theme that also allows for metaphors that reflect on ballet itself as an art -- e.g. anxiety about the mechanical, heartless quality of ballet technique. (The whole ballet plays character dancing off against classical pointe technique etc. -- presumably lots of bad nineteenth-century ballets did that, too, but in this case it gets thematized or reflected on in Swanilda's Act II transformations. It's a ballet 'about' forgiveness etc., but also a ballet about ballet. Maybe that's why Balanchine wanted to stage it.)

Taking a somewhat different emphasis, and one that would relate Coppelia to earlier romantic ballets, Croce describes Swanilda as a Shavian heroine who has to bring the dreaming/fantasizing hero down to earth and back to real life -- with Coppelius a kind of failed artist who never did entirely return from his dreams back to the everyday. (I'm paraphrasing Croce based on memory and may be elaborating a bit.) In a sense Coppelius is a belated version of Pygmalion -- Pygmalion in the age of mechanical reproduction.

Even the Wagner parodies that the Balanchine/Danilova version include partly underline the way this is a ballet about ballet (or theater more broadly), as well as a ballet about the undoing of romantic myth. No more unattainable dream women (Sylphs or Valkyries) -- or, rather, a robot instead.

None of this would be able to take theatrical effect, if there weren't the choreography to sustain the sheer dance interest. That's why it's a ballet and not a Hoffman story! But the evidence of the various productions I've seen is that enough remains of the "original" -- steps/structure/atmosphere -- to say that there is a choreographic template and it works.

I agree, too, with Luka's comment that the ballet's rich history counts for something in this discussion. It's an important work if for no other reason than that it has been the scene of important performances. That alone might not be reason enough to keep staging Coppelia, but it is a part of the larger picture.

I guess it's clear by now how I would answer the question. Yes, indeed, I do take Coppelia seriously as a major ballet!

[ 05-21-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

#9 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,263 posts

Posted 21 May 2001 - 08:24 PM

Thanks for that lovely analysis, Drew. I think there's a lot more to Coppelia than pink cotton candy, too. The idea of a man creating life, and creating an ideal that is a doll that he can manipulate seems quite contemporary, too :) (New divertissement to include A Sheep Called Dolly.)

One of the most moving scenes in this ballet I've seen was Fredbjorn Bjornsson as Coppelius, because he really believed he'd done it, finally succeeded, after all these years, and the belief, and the love he had for her, was so intense it made his moment of realization that he had been duped absolutely heartbreaking. One felt he had a total of four minutes of happiness in his entire life.

#10 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 02 June 2001 - 05:15 PM

Coppelia must be taken seriously by an audience, even if they know it's a comedy! And it must be taken seriously by the dancers, as well! Problems erupt for a "comic" ballet (or comic anything) that falls somewhere between cheap yox, and High Truth!

#11 nijinsky1979

nijinsky1979

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 31 posts

Posted 12 September 2008 - 12:08 AM

It's Coppélia, with an acute accent over the e. Also: Dr. Coppélius.

By the way, it's one of my favorites. It's not very deep or anything, but indeed, why should it have to be? It's one well-known ballet that has no element of magic or tragedy. Really, it's a ballet for the Industrial Age.

Yes, it has a fantastic score — and I agree that's one of the reasons it's endured — but I'm beginning to like the music of Sylvia better: There's more of an emotional scope in Sylvia.

#12 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 12 September 2008 - 04:43 AM

Thanks, nijinsky1979, for recovering this fascinating thread from the early days of Ballet Talk

The Balanchine Coppelia, which is the only version I know, has always struck me as being one of the less satisfying full-lengths, despite its charming score, and I don't know why. Possibly Mel put his finger on it for me when he raises the issue of how very difficult it is to do comedy effectively.

Coppelia must be taken seriously by an audience, even if they know it's a comedy! And it must be taken seriously by the dancers, as well! Problems erupt for a "comic" ballet (or comic anything) that falls somewhere between cheap yox, and High Truth!


I would add to this: "Coppellia must be taken seriously by its stagers and dancers." Perhaps too many performances in which the ballet has been done with inconsistency of style and tone, with too much jokiness in the first and second acts and too little sense continuity (and wonder) in the third, have slightly spoiled it for me.

Similarly, although Drew and Alexandra raise the matter of the significant themes in the story, I am struck by the question of whether these ideas -- which can be justified on paper -- can actually be communicated from the stage, to the audience, during performance. I'd love to be conviced that I am wrong.

(I should add that I go back to the first performances at NYCB and have seen several Miami perfornances in recent years.)

So, to return to Alexandra's original question: "Do you take Coppelia seriously?" I would add: If so, how and why? If not ... why not?

#13 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 12 September 2008 - 08:49 AM

Yes, I take Coppelia seriously, and find it one of my favourite ballets--easily. Loved the Balanchine with McBride, and never anything quite so much since, but there's a good DVD of the POB production I saw recently. Interesting discussions of the mechanical reproduction, and the 'robot' instead of the 'dream women', but that's an 'element of magic' (thought not tragedy), surely. Also important is the difficulty of comedy, and I agree with Alexandra that it tells us just as much as tragedy about the human condition (and anything else, for that matter, if there is any), because how could that be different from theater? High comedy is accessible only to a select few, nothing easy about it, although I don't think this applies to contemporary movies at all, where comedy is an extension of TV sitcoms or jokey stuff, not comedy in the old traditional sense of theater. These matters of comedy are not like Joan Rivers and Comedy Store types. I like all these ideas, which have enhanced my understanding of Coppelia, although not my enjoyment probably, because I was just fine enjoying it without thinking about it too much. And the score definitely makes it preferable to me to anything set to Minkus. I like it better than Raymonda too, which has nice music, but Glazunov is better in short doses, in which it sounds elegant; an evening full of Glazunov runs into a sense of banality and it gets boring. I can easily see a one-act ballet of Glazunov pleasing me more. But the word for Coppelia is mainly 'delicious.'

#14 cubanmiamiboy

cubanmiamiboy

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,269 posts

Posted 12 September 2008 - 09:22 AM

do you take "Coppelia" seriously as one of the great ballets? Why or why not.

Coppelia. Oh, how do i miss it! I read somewhere that George Balanchine once declared "Giselle" to be ballet's great tragedy and "Coppelia" its great comedy. Both are equally popular in Cuba. I would say that it is no accident that both became signature pieces for the Havana troupe, for which we cubans' love of these two works runs deep, and Mme.Alonso has spent a lifetime refining each to perfection. The breathtaking results of her devotion to "Coppelia" really shows on her version. One have to remember that Alonso's involvement with "Giselle" is legend, but she in fact danced Swanilda in "Coppelia" first, in Nikolai Yavorski's 1935 production in Cuba when she was only 15. She collaborated with Leon Fokine, at the time a teacher at the Alicia Alonso Academy in Havana, on her first "Coppelia" staging in 1948 with her venerated Igor Youskevitch as her loving Franz. Then in 1957, Andre Eglevsky was her Franz, in that other historic "Coppelia" mounted at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles-(from which there's that clip that i posted in the videos forum). Then the 1968 Alonso "Coppelia" for her Ballet Nacional de Cuba became, like her definitive 1972 "Giselle" for both the Paris Opera Ballet and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the standard by which I always judge all other choreographic versions. On the other side, let's not forget that Fokine influence on Cuban ballet is at least as strong as that of the Italian Enrico Zanfretta or any later Russian influence. The sensual and exquisite boundaries of the Cuban style are defined by Alonso's "Coppelia" as much as by her "Giselle." Alonso's historically informed reconstruction of the original 1870 Arthur Saint-Leon and later Marius Petipa versions of "Coppelia" carries the unmistakable post-Romantic line and flavor that marked the Fokine revolution in the early 20th century. The superhuman demands on virtuosity are more than in any other "Coppelia" production: Swanilda's Act 3 solo alone demands the technical fireworks of, say, a couple of Rose Adagios with Giselle's Act 1 extended pointe solo added for good measure-(and believe me, the Cuban audience shows no mercy if what is expected is not delivered in a 150 %, both technically and artistically). But more than all the classical complexity-(and hey, Cubans toss off impossible steps as if they were the easiest thing in the world )- there is real humanity in Coppelia's dancing. Basically, for me Mme.Alonso's "Coppelia" matters because it makes me believe in the power of dance to reaffirm the best in all of us...and yes, this is enough of a reason for me to take this ballet very seriously...if I may. :D
+

#15 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 11 January 2009 - 08:24 AM

On the NYCB performance forum, FauxPas raised the following question. I thought it would be worth copying it to this thread, since there's clearly a lot of interest in, knowledge about, and fondness for Coppelia here.

I was struck by similarities between the Freddy Franklin staging done now at American Ballet Theater and the Balanchine/Danilova version. Clearly the first act (theme and variations grand pas) and third act divertissements are superior at NYCB because they are entirely Balanchine. However the second act is almost identical in every detail in both stagings. Clearly Franklin and Danilova were working from a common Ballets Russes source. Whether there is an earlier Maryinsky source choreography that is Petipa or more likely Nicolai Legat that Nicolai Sergeyeff used at Ballets Russes is an issue I will throw to the ballet historians more qualified than I on this site.


What are the origins of these versions? How did they come to be both similar and dissimilar?

Thanks, FauxPas, for your insights into this ballet and for your questions.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):