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Alexandra

What productions of "Coppelia" have you seen?

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Which companies? Choreographers/directors? Were they traditional productions? Any little quirks? Good, bad, indifferent?

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I think the prettiest production done now is NYCB's. It looks like a children's picture book and is all-around tasty.

I like some of the costumes from Vinogradov's Coppelia, but overall, it is too visually fussy.

I have not seen the recent Australian Ballet video, so can't comment on that one--but most of the other ones I have seen are rather

lackluster, including ABT's (but perhaps that is because I always *expect* that one to be wonderfully danced, even if the production looks tired.) Last time I saw it, it wasn't wonderfully danced, alas....

Has anyone seen Royal Ballet's recently? The pictures look wonderfully vibrant, but I've not seen it live....

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I haven't seen many "Coppelias." I hated it when I was younger and avoided it until I started writing, when I had to see it, but still didn't seek out performances. I saw Kirkland do this, with Baryshnikov, and don't remember a thing.

So, ABT's (I do remember Fracci's, largely because I was curious as to how such a great Giselle would fare in a comedy; she was lovely.)

National Ballet of Canada's with Nureyev and an assortment of partners -- he was exactly like Colas, as I remember it.

New York City Ballet's, which I do like very much (McBride; Muriel Aasen, a Disappeared Dancer who was quite promising in the mid-1970s; my programs tell me Ashley, but I don't remember her either).

The production that made me love the ballet was the Danish one, the polar opposite of NYCB's -- masculine as opposed to feminine, character as opposed to classical. Only Swanhilda is on pointe. Everyone else is in boots. Even Frantz is a character hero. There is no divertissement of the bells in the last act, but the most extraordinary, spirited czardas, even in the early 1990s, I have ever seen -- that ever-present band of gypsies that roamed the hedgerows of 19th century ballet pops in and seems to seduce everyone on stage, including Frantz, but we already know about him....

The Danes had a ballerina tradition in this role that stretched through the century. In each generation there were two ballerinas: one was the Sylph, and one was Swanhilda. The last were Heidi Ryom (who was a very good Swanhilda, very light, very curious, and with a good heart) and Lis Jeppesen (sweet and heartless, and absolutely wonderful). The production was ruined after Hans Brenaa died. The last I saw it, it was coarse, the fun bled out of it. It was done so incessantly in the 1990s that everyone grew tired of it, and it hasn't been in repertory since 1994, I think.

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The Australian video, with Lisa Pavane and Greg Horsman is IMO probably the best one available, and the production is solid in most respects, with lovely scenery. As to the costumes, sometimes it looks as though the designer couldn't make up his mind whether to have short classical tutus or long Romantic ones, and settled on something in between. ;) They're still very pretty, though, and overall, if you want a Coppelia video, this is by far the best one to get.

[ 05-16-2001: Message edited by: BalletNut ]

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I always thought Roland Petit's was so creative. I really enjoyed his waltz scene with Swanilda.

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As a late comer to the ballet world, the only Coppelia I saw was NYCB/Balanchine's production last spring season. I like the act III divertisments of pure dances better than the narrative 1st act. It's a pure joy to see Balanchine's signature speed in full display.

Does anyone know which productions are available on DVD?

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Coppelia was the very first ballet I ever saw, and it was when I was about 9 or 10 years old I think. It was the Sadler's Wells Ballet, and I believe that the Swanhilda was Elaine Fifield. I really don't remember much about the production except that I was totally enchanted with it :)

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I've seen it for the first time a few weeks ago at the Paris Opera, danced by the POB school. It was a production by Pierre Lacotte after Albert Aveline.

By the way, here are the performances and productions which took place at the Paris Opera:

-first performance on May 25, 1870

-danced again in 1875, 1879, 1882 and 1885 in a production adapted by Louis Merante (with Leontine Beaugrand and Julia Subra)

-in 1899 and 1911 in a production by Joseph Hansen (with Emma Sandrini, Aida Boni, Carlotta Zambelli)

-in 1936 in a production by Albert Aveline (with Camille Bos), and again in 1941 with Solange Schwarz, and then Lycette Darsonval, Christiane Vaussard, Yvette Chauvire, Micheline Bardin (who danced Swanilda after dancing Frantz a few years before!)

-in 1966 in a "modernized" production by Michel Descombey (with Claude Bessy)

-in 1973 in a production by Pierre Lacotte (with Ghislaine Thesmar, Noella Pontois, Christiane Vlasssi). It was danced again in 1978-79-80 (with Wilfride Piollet, Dominique Khalfouni, Claude de Vulpian) and then in 1983 and 1991 (Vulpian again, Monique Loudieres, Francoise Legree, Elisabeth Maurin, Karin Averty)

-in 1996 in a version of Patrice Bart.

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I've seen the NYCB version many, many times since 1978, and the Royal Ballet once, last year.

I much prefer the NYCB. In the Royal production the principals were Leanne Benjamin and Angel Corella. I was SO excited to see Corella, because I had seen him in La Bayadere at ABT, and in various things on TV. I thought he was an amazing dancer. But in the traditional Coppelia, Franz is given absolutely nothing to do! It was so disappointing to know that this fantastic danseur was on the stage, being wasted. Leanne Benjamin was a lovely Swanhilda BUT...

I saw Patricia McBride--many times. To my mind she is the gold standard for contemporary Swanhildas. I never saw Danilova, but I can only imagine how charming she must have been.

Patricia McBride was a delight in this role. Nichol Hlinka came close, after several years to grow into the part. They were so expressive--you knew every thought in their heads.

And in the NYCB version, Balanchine was kind to Frantz and gave him a few good solos. Helgi Tomasson, well, what can I say? In more recent times, I do like Damian Woetzel in this part. Damian is NOT my favorite (OK, please don't shoot me!). I prefer the elegant look of a Peter Boal or Nicolaj Hubbe to Damian's wildness and hot-dogging. But I think Frantz suits Damian perfectly, and he makes the most of the part.

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Well, I've seen both the old Royal production and the Royal Danish version, but also have been in a production based on a version staged by Yugoslav ballet master Oskar Harmos, and learned, but never performed, bits of the old ABT production via Martha Mahr, who had learned her version from Alicia Alonso.

[ 06-03-2001: Message edited by: Mel Johnson ]

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I've seen the 'updated Aussie' Coppelia, choreographed by Chrissie Parrot and performed by West Australian Ballet.

Most thought it was clever and amusing, I thought it was tacky, repetitive and shallow, consisting of lots of strutting - which is all I really remember of it. Particularly cringe-worthy was the wedding scene which was set -sigh- at an Aussie barbeque, complete with drunken bridesmaids.

I own the Aust Ballets "Coppelia" which is sweet, but I can't really judge it until I've seen more Coppelia's. I like Lisa Bolte's 'Prayer' because she really does look so serene and angelic. She's often miscast, but I think she's just lovely here.

[ 06-06-2001: Message edited by: Katharyn ]

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I'm very fond of "cringeworthy," Katharyn. I may steal that sometime :)

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I have Coppelia by Ballet de San Juan (PR) and it's better than you might think. Bujones is lively, as usual

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Alexandra:

IYou reminded me of just how wonderful the Danish Coppelia was that I saw back in the '60's when they first came to NY. Frantz was Frederik Bjornson Swanhilda was Inge S. (I've forgotten the spellings and the names) but it was really great

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I always thought Roland Petit's was so creative. I really enjoyed his waltz scene with Swanilda.

Tery: I also saw Petit's Coppelia (on TV) with Karen Kain. As you say it was very inventive. It took a little getting used to as it looked like Franc0-Prussian era. He did some wonderful things especially in Act II. His steps for himself were amazing. I've since tried finding it on video but no success. Is it available?

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I saw a version performed by Boston Ballet. It must have been February of 1995, actually yes it was, it was Valentines Day! The choreo and production was by Enrique Martinez... (sp?) But I really enjoyed it! It had some great scenery and special effects.

I own the Vinogradof version and have mixed feelings on it.

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My DD and I just watched the Austrialian Ballet version of Coppelia on VHS and thought it was very good. Lisa Pavane is a great actress as well as dancer and really did a great job as Swanilda.

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I also saw the Australian Ballet's Coppelia and was rather disappointed in it.

I don't remember who was dancing but it seemed "lack luster". The final pas de deux was not very special. Neither was the dancing (to the best of my recollection. It's been a few years, if that's the same one everyone's talking about )

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As a child, I saw ABT do it in the early 70s, and the broadcast of the NYCB one. Later I shot a few performances of Ballet Chicago's production in the mid '90s, staged by the late Basil Thompson. It was a nice production, beautifully lit and it was the sort of the company's last Hurrah before disintegrating. The Swanhilda was well done by Meredith Benson. Her husband, was explaining to me how much he preferred the version she had danced with ?Cincinnati Ballet? which had been staged by Frederic Franklin. I would very much like to see the Franklin staging.

I took my young daughter to see - I think it was the Shanghai ballet - in a one night stand college tour type production... it was just awful. Perhaps this was because the scenery didn't fit on the college stage, but it was so very strange to see the choreography referring to Coppelia up on her balcony when in this production there was absolutely nothing there. Also, in the folk dances... instead of various stamping steps rebounding off the floor, the energy sank into the floor... something was lost in the cultural translation I think. I believe it had been set on the company by Lacotte? (sorry vague memory again, someone from Paris Opera at any rate). They were obviously trying to do everything "correctly" and somehow the sense of humor was entirely lost. Technically, though the dancers were beautiful, in a kind of Les Sylphides sort of way.

I know a lot of people don't care for this ballet, but I think it's a nice alternative to Nutcracker for introducing children to ballet... the story-line is easy enough for a child to follow, it's funny, the music is pretty and "dancey". Giselle and Swan Lake, are no more small child appropriate than Romeo & Juliet. I suppose Sleeping Beauty is good bet, but that's perhaps more difficult for small companies to pull off than Coppelia. Don Quixote has "dancey" music as well, but the story perhaps isn't as easy to follow as Coppelia. Coppelia is kind of light opera.

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I took my young daughter to see - I think it was the Shanghai ballet - in a one night stand college tour type production... it was just awful.  Perhaps this was because the scenery didn't fit on the college stage, but it was so very strange to see the choreography referring to Coppelia up on her balcony when in this production there was absolutely nothing there.  Also, in the folk dances... instead of various stamping steps rebounding off the floor, the energy sank into the floor... something was lost in the cultural translation I think.  I believe it had been set on the company by Lacotte? (sorry vague memory again, someone from Paris Opera at any rate).

This must have been the Lacotte version. I saw it on DVD with the school of the Paris Opera Ballet (first two acts only) and was also amazed by the omission of Coppelia from the first act. At first I wondered if she were really there but the camera just wasn't showing her, but when her little mime scene of blowing a kiss to Franz was omitted & the music given to something else, I knew she wasn't there. How is the audience to understand what's going on (if they don't already know the story . . . but even then . . . ). The whole thing seemed to me dramatically inept and unmusical, and makes me fear for Lacotte's staging of The Pharaoh's Daughter for the Bolshoi.

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THe Cuban ballet did Coppellia in Berkeley on a stage too small for them, in shoes that were SO loud you knew they must have had to bake them with glue in them - -well,m aybe not, the stage here IS hard -- but Lorna Feijoo was just enchanting as Swanhilda-- she was light, easy, her bossiness came naturally as a result of natural quickness, it reminded me of the guy in highschool two years ahead of me who was always telling everybody what to do -- but since he was so intuitive he knew already what everybody wanted to do, knew it before THEY did, -- he was just naturally hte leader of that group and totally loved by all...

She was fantastic, no matter how difficult the step, she was always in character....

But my favorite version is NYCB's (I only know the tape). McBride is simply a riot in the part. All her geekiness, those brittle cabrioles, who cares -- it fits the role completely, and she's SO willing to DO THE MIME -- sjhe's really enjoying it, trying to get Coppellia to come down from that balcony and dance with her, come play with us!! and then her parody of old Coppellius's walk, it's so juicy, so funny, and so accomplished, it stands up to the comic-elder walks that you see in the great Indonesian dance-theater epics, where tehy've really made a great art out of spavined gaits.

What puts it over the top for me, however, is Balanchine's character dances -- nothing tops his mazurka. The new stuff he added to the last act, esp Swanhilda's variation, with its flying assembles to pointe, is wonderful, but nothing tops his mazurka. I've showed it to a class of children who immediately made me stop the tape and started doing pas de bourrees on their heels and -- we had to study it and just turn them loose for a while, we're talking about 12 year-olds. And I was totally with them -- it is an enormously satisfying dance, to ENORMOUSLY satisfying music. It probably helped that the kids had already heard and danced to this music MANY times -- but hey, that's true of many ballet chestnuts, and they don't stop the show.

His czardas is pretty great, too.....

Choura, you've REALLY made me want to see Heidi Ryom at the center of that production... What I love about the Balanchinee/Danilova verion (which I guess is St Leon's at heart -- that's who's credited in the mason/balanchine stories of hte great ballets, though Merante did hte first version, st leon re-did it for St Petersburg, and Petipa re-did THAT) is that it's a character ballet. Martinez's version for ABT ,which I saw Gregory do, was a vehicle for virtuoso classical dancing, and though she was amazing, it's her hops on pointe while doing a 360 degree promenade and a continuous devellope from front through to arabesque that I recall, not a mythic creature who was like THE life force up against a mad scientist (and Swanilda is WOMAN against the machine, and of course she wins, cuz there's NOTHING stronger than swanilda)

But I sure wish I'd seen hte Danish version.... it sounds like a separate vision, and really wonderful....

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The whole thing seemed to me dramatically inept and unmusical, and makes me fear for Lacotte's staging of The Pharaoh's Daughter for the Bolshoi.

Dear Ari,

Don't worry. The Pharoh's Daughter was wonderfully done. It's lots of fun and superb dancing. I saw it on Mezzo, a French station devoted to "culture".

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I performed in Coppelia first as a young student and, although I loved dancing it, even then thought it was an unpleasant story in places and the score programmatic.

Ib Andersen just did a new Coppelia for Ballet Arizona, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable; apparently so did the audience. They seemed charmed by the mime and humor, the corniness of the story, and the pretty sets and costumes. Most impressive to my mind was the choreography for the corps in the first and third acts. Wonderful czardas and mazurka, delightfully musical and fresh. Lots of fine dancing by the men.

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I performed in Coppelia first as a young student and, although I loved dancing it, even then thought it was an unpleasant story in places and the score programmatic.

Interesting you should feel this way. I think Coppelia is by far the most brilliant story ballet in that the plot stands up best and in some weird way it's a subversion of Sleeping Beauty before this ballet even existed.

The music, too, is stunning. The woodwind textures are beautiful and when I die I want to be the 1st horn in Coppélia.

Oh, and to stick to the topic, a couple months ago I saw the Hungarian State Ballet's version from the fifties, in which the 'mechanical music' was performed by a kind of robot dixieland orchestra and Swanhilda dresses up like the Spanish dancer to "seduce" Franz.

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I think the best version of Coppelia I have seen is the Australian Ballet's one. Lisa Pavane is AWESOME at Swanhilda and the mime scene in the Second Act is the best I have seen - much better than the Kirov one :flowers: . It is certainly the best one I've seen. The Waltz of the Hours, Dawn and Prayer are the best bits!

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