Coppelia Question #1: Do you take Coppelia seriously?
Posted 15 May 2001 - 12:53 AM
"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.
Posted 15 May 2001 - 02:04 AM
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?
Posted 15 May 2001 - 04:10 PM
For the enjoyment it has given people: yes.
Posted 15 May 2001 - 04:23 PM
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.
Posted 15 May 2001 - 09:23 PM
Posted 15 May 2001 - 11:41 PM
Posted 16 May 2001 - 12:41 PM
Posted 21 May 2001 - 07:39 PM
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 ]
Posted 21 May 2001 - 08:24 PM
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.
Posted 02 June 2001 - 05:15 PM
Posted 12 September 2008 - 12:08 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2008 - 04:43 AM
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.
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?
Posted 12 September 2008 - 08:49 AM
Posted 12 September 2008 - 09:22 AM
Posted 11 January 2009 - 08:24 AM
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.
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