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Coppelia Question #1: Do you take Coppelia seriously?


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#16 rg

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 09:36 AM

the N. Sergeyev notations give "M. Petipa and E. Cecchetti" as the choregraphic source(s) of its documents.
"the cast at time of notation" oddly lists only the mazurka soloists - Oboukhova and Kshesinsky; Petipa and Bekeffi - and Dr. Coppelius - Gerdt - and no one else. no mention is made of the Swanilda and Franz of the notated cast(s). [i can't tell if the 'mazurka' notes mean that two casts of the mazurka are notated or if the notes refer to the casts of the ballet's mazurka and the czardas.]
a further note indicates the notations' COPPELIA documentation also includes a "a cast list of a later production with Danilova as Swanhilda and Panaieev as Frans, for a ballet company of the western world, post revolution."
it would seem to follow then that what Danilova staged for NYCB came from what she did in her Ballet Russe days, which no doubt was similar to what the N. Sergeyev notations indicated.

Petipa's first COPPELIA in 1884 included Swanilda as Varvara Nikitina; Franz as Gerdt; Coppelius as T. Stukolkin [the first Drosselmeier]; in the Cecchetti/Petipa staging from 1894 the Swanilda was Legnani.

from what one knows of the production(s) for the Sadlers Wells (now Royal) Ballet, which come from use of the N. Sergeyev notations, it would seem that much about the ballet remained consistent from production to production.

additionally here's what the Balanchine catalogue says of NYCB's staging:

<<Music: By Léo Delibes (Coppélia, ou la Fille aux Yeux d'Émail, produced 1870, with excerpts from Sylvia, ou la Nymphe de Diane, produced 1876, and La Source [Naïla], 1866). Book by Charles Nuitter, after E. T. A. Hoffmann's Der Sandmann (1815). >>

<<Balanchine and Danilova collaborated to reproduce parts of Petipa's choreography for Coppélia, which they had learned while students at the Imperial Ballet School; Danilova had later become a leading interpreter of the role of Swanilda. Balanchine created entirely new choreography for Act III, and for the mazurka and czardas in Act I, and made slight revisions in other dances in Act I. Using music from Sylvia, Balanchine created a male variation for Act I and a complete pas de deux for Act III, in which the male variation is taken from his Sylvia: Pas de Deux. >>

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 09:56 AM

It's really a dicey deal trying to figure out the genealogy of the present Coppélia. The Danes have their version, which has soldiered on to the present, the Paris Opéra has its production, which has been tinkered with over the years, and even in Britain, they knew the ballet before the Sergeyev stagings. Adeline Genée did her version in 1906.

It's hard to know what influenced whom in the various stagings, but the second act is pretty much a frame for three variations for Swanilda, and a lot of mime surrounding. There's not a lot of variety you can get from that scenario.

#18 rg

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 10:22 AM

interesting, Mel, you connect 3 variations to Swanilda's Coppelia in act 2 - in fact, aren't there actually two: the Spanish (Bolero) and the Scottish (Gigue)?
the Danilova/Balanchine version treats the 'awakening' of Swanilda to 'full life' (the Scène et valse de la poupée) as a kind of pas de deux and i wonder if that's the choice these stagers made or if it's what they recalled from the imperial ballet production.
and i suppose one could call the Scène et valse de la poupée a variation as well.
i too keep catching myself from thinking of three stand-alone variations for Swanilda/Coppelia when Delibes and St. Leon seem precisely to have arranged only two.

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 11:33 AM

I usually call the valse a variation as well, in comparison to the pantomime that comes immediately before and after it. I did my first Coppélius when I was 21, and made him the oldest dollmaker in captivity. In fact, my makeup suggested that I had been dead for maybe the last couple of weeks. I guess that there is a lot of byplay between him and Swanilda during the valse, but it's actually a lot less strenuous than the pantomime.

#20 atm711

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 03:51 PM

I am assuming that what I saw with the Ballet Russe was the 1938 Sergeyev version; it was in their repertoire until their demise in 1960. I find it superior to the NYCB version. The ACT II NYCB is pretty much identical with the BR version. It's Act I and III that cause problems for me (especially Act III). In the BR version there were only two solo variations---Dawn and Prayer---the waltz of the golden hours, all those kiddies, the spinner variations add too much unnecessary filler to the Act--and what's with the Discord & War PDD? ( But, I have these same reservations about B's Midsummer Night's Dream which makes me prefer Ashton's version. I sometimes have the feeling that Balanchine was looking for a full evening's work and just kept on adding and adding. The Coppelia of the BR years was probably the best production they had--and they had Danilova and Franklin.

#21 bart

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 06:24 PM

Alonso's version of Coppelia, done with Enrique Martinez, will be performed by the School of the Rome Opera Ballet next month. Performances wll be in the small Teatro Nazionale right next to the Opera House.

http://www.operaroma...e_2009/coppelia

#22 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 06:38 PM

According to the accounts, back in the 70s Cynthia Gregory was invited to one of the International Ballet Festivals in Havana. One of the full lengh ballet she danced was Coppelia. When she was asked if she wanted to dance Swanilda's Entree/Vals of Act I to Alonso's staging she said: No... it is to strong for an entree, it is abusive for the ballerina!. After coming back from her US years, Mme. Alonso instituted this version, which suited her virtuosa status, and then all the cuban ballerinas followed her rule.

Rosario Suarez: Act I Entree. How can't one take Coppelia seriously after getting used to watch this...?
http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

#23 rg

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 07:15 PM

one can of course prefer one version of a 'classic' over another, but a truncated act 3 of COPPELIA doesn't mean that when the Danilova/Balanchine used the full score that the result qualifies as filled with filler.
"War and Discord" honors Delibes' and St.Leon's ways of addressing the balelt's scenario about the Festival of Bells, this one being the tolling of the city's new bell to sound the alarm of war. the oddly shaped original pas de deux is to honor the bell's purpose to announce Peace.
GB likely felt it was keeping to the integrity of the score by using all the divertissements Delibes wrote for his catalogue of occasions when the Galician town bell would be rung, up to a point, to be sure, since he added music to this act to make the once oddly shaped pas de deux into a 'traditional' pas de duex.
someone wondered aloud leaving today's perf. of COPPELIA at NYCB if either of Petipa's stagings - in 1884 and 1894 - added music to beef up the pas de deux for those russian productions.
THE DREAM and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM are similar situations, in a way. Balanchine uses the score for act one in the order written; Ashton chose to re-arrange it. Nothing wrong with any artist making artistic choices.
if anyone cares for GB's "Dream" even a little, i encourage reading the essay by Anita Finkel included in READING DANCE; this presents her view of Balanchine's concept by way of the scheme of pas de deux. to be sure Finkel found no filler in GB's MIDSUMMER, which doesn't make her 'right,' but she does make a good case for her point of view.

#24 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 05:35 AM

"War and Discord", I've read, but never seen, was originally supposed to show the local militia being called out and drilling, then going into a sham battle. That makes more sense to me than a lot of interpretations I've seen.

#25 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 10:21 AM

Coppellia is a great ballet, and Patricia McBride was GREAT as Swanilda. Not every ballerina wants to play such a person - -she seems to have no complexity, she's all extraversion and indeed pretty much the boss in this town, like the head cheerleader in high school --

But many thought it was Danilova's greatest role -- Gottlieb says so -- And Danilova was not without reflection. But she WAS irresistible when hte life force took her over, and that's what Swanilda should be like --


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