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doug

Coppelia Act III

19 posts in this topic

I think Coppelia deserves much more discussion that she is getting. Come on folks, there is a lot to discuss in this work!

I really am interested in various productions of Act III. What was the take - a wedding, a festival, a pageant, just another Act III divertissement? I find that with many full-lengths, what were once a unique final celebratory acts with much individual flavor have been restaged according to a catch-all formula of pas de deux and variation after variation.

Please share your experiences with Coppelia Act III - there must be some interesting versions out there, historic and contemporary. :)

[ 05-20-2001: Message edited by: doug ]

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Thanks, Doug! I think the original excuse for Coppelia's Act III divertissement was the blessing of a bell -- a lovely idea. The dances represented the different reasons the bell tolled -- Dawn, Prayer, War and Discord, etc. It was the town clock, set the rhythms for people's lives.

I think it was dropped in Paris because (like some other Saint Leon ballets) the tastes of the time were not for dancing. Since it was the End of the Era, at a time when classical dancing was not at its best, it may have been possible that there weren't enough good dancers to carry out a full divertissement? But that's pure speculation :)

Today, most of the divertissements I've seen are only Dawn and Prayer, cheating us of the rest. I believe Balanchine's version does the full suite (and brings in a solo for Franz from "Sylvia") but one thing he does that's also a 20th century attitude is to use any full-bodied, strong music for men. War and Discord was for women (everything in that ballet, except Coppelius and the Mayor, was for women). And taking strong music away from women and leaving them with the lyrical and beautiful dilutes the divertissement -- and our ideas about men and women and what's appropriate for each.

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Alexandra, War and Discord in the Balanchine version is choreographed for a male and female soloist and a female and male corps.

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Yes, I know. I've seen it many times :) I'm sorry. I wasn't clear. My point was that there weren't men in the original.

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I think Balanchine's pas des deux in the last act is wonderful, but the rest often seems like so much filler. (I did see Somogyi make something wonderful of Dawn though.) All the pink tutued little girls just go on and on, especially since little girls with knobby knees don't look their best in tutus.

I do like the idea of a third act to bring everything together and to end on a note of celebration. It would be nice if somehow the idea of celebrating the bell (which was the reason for the grants to the wedding couples, as I recall) could be mentioned in the first act, so it didn't come out of nowhere.

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Birmingham Royal Ballet's current production (by Peter Wright) calls the 3rd act 'Masque of the Bell' and includes the following:

Dawn

Prayer

Work (all women!)

Betrothal

Call to Arms (all Men)

Peace - danced by Swanilda and Franz

It's some time since I last saw it but I do vaguely remember something in the first act that led into this.

Unfortunately the ballet ended with Coppelia actually coming to life - a terrible idea, for my taste!

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I've always found the Balanchine Act III quite sensational...the Wagner parody all the richer when you consider the date (1870) and the finale just thrilling. I even like the little girls.

I thought that (in most traditional productions) celebrating the bell IS mentioned in Act I. The mayor (or whoever) announces it and the gift for anyone who marries on that day and then asks Swanilda and Frants if they will marry; that leads Swanilda to dance with the sheaf of wheat etc. The production I'm probably remembering is Franklin's for the National Ballet (which I think is very close to what he did for ABT), but I don't think this is unusual; it may even be in NYCB's -- I just don't remember.

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Guest on the divertissement (1870 production):

"The last scene is set in the grounds of the manor. The bell stands in the back of the stage, behind an allegorical car [sic] on which the various playes wo are to take part in the festival are grouped. After the blessing of the bell, the priests are presenting the betrothed couples -- among whom are Swahilda and Frantz, now reconciled--to the lord of the manor, when Coppelius arrives, angrily complaining. Swanilda offers to pay for the damage with her dowry, but the lord of the manor stops her and throws Coppelius a purse. The signal is then given for the festival to begin. The bent figure of Time hands his hour-glass to a young bell-ringer and commands him to animate the players. The divertissement begins:

1. Valse des heures. The Hours of Morning.

2. L'Aurore. Dawn appears surrounded by flowers, and the Hours of Morning dance round her.

3. La Prere. Prayer blesses the new day and rises into the heavens.

4. La Travail (La Fileuse). At the command of the bell-ringer, the Hours of Morning and Dawn give place to the Hours of Day. It is the time for work: a spinner and harvest-women begin their tasks.

5. L'Hymen (Noce Villageoise). The procession of Hymen bearing her torch approaches. Accompanied by Cupid, she presides at a village wedding.

6. La Discorde et la Guerre. This happy scene is followed by the appearance of Discord, bringing in her wake War. Arms are unsheathed, and a fiery glow lights the darkened sky.

7. La Paix. Peace appears, carrying an olive branch. All is calmed. Danse de fete, pas seul by Bozzacchi (Swanilda, and more about her later)

8. Galop Final. The Hours of Evening and of Night, and two follies appear, leading the procession of Pleasure (Bozzacchi). The final ballabile is danced by the whole company."

"The divertissement in the last scene, which was first to be shortened [the opening night audience thought there was too much dancing, and the evening too long, and trickled out during the divertissement] and later, in 1872, omitted altogether, was planned on a large scale and included, as well as thea ction, groups performed by children: sleeping peasants, praying peasants, harvesters and hay-makers, a nocturnal procession, and peasants being attacked by soldiers." [nice touch, that last one]

The whole ballet cost 37,600 francs, btw.

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I think the presentation of the clock, in the last act, connects with the theme of the "debunking" or "trashing" of Coppelius's medieval/alchemical workshop.

In the plot "writ large," the village is replacing its system of telling time by the tolling of the church bells by installing a big new clock. This represents a passage from a medieval mentality to rationalism.

Coppelius's effort to make a mechanical woman, by following an alechmical text, is rendered ridiculous and comic, just as the village passes to a modern, rational system of telling time.

I wonder whether the suite of dances in Act III could have been given meaning in this context, or whether they are simply decorative -- which is no bad thing either, as I agree with Mary that this is, overall, a light hearted ballet.

There is, however, an interesting dialogue between romanticism and classicism in Coppelia. Romantic ballet (indeed romantic art) is striking for using vernacular, indigenous northern motifs and stories in place of the classical myths out of Ovid. Romanticism is in that respect linked to post-Napoleonic nationalism. The indigenous myths of the Northern European area are now considered fit subject matter for high art. It's dance literature in the vernacular.

Coppelia as a ballet in its entirety; and the national dances in Act I; and the dances celebrating Act III (including war and discord a la Wagner) all function in that context. But it's a loose context, I think.

That's a question, really.

[ 05-22-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

[ 05-22-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

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I've enjoyed reading all the input. I like the structure of COPPELIA Act III. It seems unique among the other full-lengths we have. Interesting that Petipa's one-act THE SEASONS (1900, music by Glazunov), also dealt with the passage of time, but with regard to nature and the seasons and the span of a year. The COPPELIA divert seems to run deeper by dealing with a day and a life span combined.

As is often the case, in my opinion, Balanchine comes to closest to preserving the concept of the original COPPELIA Act III (he does the same in THE NUTCRACKER and his one-act SWAN LAKE). He includes children as well as a character-type dance (set to Discord and War). I'd like to see the old Russian version restaged - does the Royal Ballet have it in their current production? I know there is notation . . .

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By the time Petipa did "The Seasons", he had reverted to doing allegorical and mythological themes that his teachers would have found familiar. When he did a ballet d'action, like "Ruses d'Amour" also Glazunov, one is reminded very much of the Grisi/Cerito-type vehicles of the 1840s!

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Peggy van Praagh's production for the Australian Ballet is a celebration for the bell.

- Waltz of the Night Time Hours.

- Dawn (solo for a woman). Dawn dispells the hours before dancing.

- Prayer (solo for a woman).

- Le Travail (pas de neuf. Three trios of two men and one woman).

- Noces Villageoises - Wedding Procession.

- Pas de Douze. Six Pas de Deux for Swanhilda's and Franz's friends (music: "Scene et Pas d'Action" from Act II of La Source)

- Pas de Deux ("La Paix")

- Franz's Variation (fashioned from "Mazurka" from Act II of La Source)

- Swanhilda's Variation

- Galop Generale

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What happened to Prayer? DD's teacher was explaining that when she learned this part (I'm not sure where in the USSR) it was called Sunrise (not Dawn, that was also taught) and she was like Mother Nature calling up the powers of nature for the day. I also noticed it wasn't in the 1993 Kirov video. Was this omitted because of keeping the video time down? Or are both of these changes the result of Communism?

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I think the presentation of the clock, in the last act, connects with the theme of the "debunking" or "trashing" of Coppelius's medieval/alchemical workshop.

In the plot "writ large," the village is replacing its system of telling time by the tolling of the church bells by installing a big new clock. This represents a passage from a medieval mentality to rationalism.

Coppelius's effort to make a mechanical woman, by following an alechmical text, is rendered ridiculous and comic, just as the village passes to a modern, rational system of telling time.

I wonder whether the suite of dances in Act III could have been given meaning in this context, or whether they are simply decorative -- which is no bad thing either, as I agree with Mary that this is, overall, a light hearted ballet.

There is, however, an interesting dialogue between romanticism and classicism in Coppelia. Romantic ballet (indeed romantic art) is striking for using vernacular, indigenous northern motifs and stories in place of the classical myths out of Ovid. Romanticism is in that respect linked to post-Napoleonic nationalism. The indigenous myths of the Northern European area are now considered fit subject matter for high art. It's dance literature in the vernacular.

Coppelia as a ballet in its entirety; and the national dances in Act I; and the dances celebrating Act III (including war and discord a la Wagner) all function in that context. But it's a loose context, I think.

That's a question, really.

[ 05-22-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

[ 05-22-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

This is an old message you posted, but I enjoyed reading it. Very informative! I will be seeing Coppelia in Miami soon, so I was reading old Coppelia threads.

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Thanks, Bart Birdsall, for reviving this thread. The original thread is full of information. But also ends rather abruptly, leaving lots of unanswered questions.

I was wondering what other company versions our members have seen? How do they compare with the original?

By the way, Miami's Coppelia was last performed in January 2005 and is described in the program as follows:

Choreography: Arthur Saint-Leon

Staged by Eve Lawson and Eric Quillere

Lawson was MCB Ballet Mistress in the 1990s, and has held the same position in the National Ballet of Norway, etc.

Quillere, who played Dr. Coppelius in 2005, trained at Paris Opera Ballet and danced in the corps. Later, danced with MCB. He is now the chief Ballet Master at the Ballet de Bordeaux. http://www.opera-bor...illere-832.html

Miami's Act III is actually a wedding celebration. It begins the Dance (Waltz) of the Hours. The solo portion of the divertissements includes only Dawn (l'Aurore), Prayer (la Priere), and Spinner (la Fileuse). This is followed by ensemble and couple dancing, along with a couple of solos. As I recall, there is choreography for the Waltz of the Hours, though I can't remember it. There is also an adagio pdd for Swanhilda and Franz.

Hymen and/or Cupid do appear in this version, but I can't recall what they do. I also can't recall any significant role for Discord or Peace. None of these is credited in the cast list. Just about everyone onstage is dancing by the curtain. This climax certainly deserves the term "grand ballabile."

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Thanks for that info, bart! Good to know! I saw Coppelia years ago as a student (local company) and I was not seriously into ballet back then. Just would go to anything that sounded good. Since then I have watched the Australian Ballet video and own the Royal Opera Ballet version with Acosta and Benjamin and like both videos that I saw. So it will be good to watch it live and know what to expect sort of.

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I was wondering what other company versions our members have seen? How do they compare with the original?

I've only seen the Cuban version, which has an interesting story. Alonso staged it first in 1948 based on two sources. One of them was her own recollections of the shortened version she danced in Havana in 1935-(just two years after the Sergueyev first staging in London's Saddler's Wells)- and staged by her Russian ballet professor Nikolai Yavorski, which was based on what he recalled back home from the Merante St. Petersburg staging. The other source was what she learned from both the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo's 1938 staging-(premiered by Danilova/Panaieff) AND Ballet Theater's 1942 Semenoff-after-Merante staging-(premiered by Baronova/Dolin). The 1948 Havana premiere had Alonso/Youskevitch in the leads. Later on she re-staged it again for a performance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, where she danced the lead with Andre Eglevsky. From then on, the Cuban Coppelia has remained, just as all her other imported mid-century stagings, untouchable.

I can't wait to see what Miami has to offer. It could be very interesting to see if there's any common points with Alonso's if they decide to honor either Franklin's or Danilova's past stagings. Will report...

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I was wondering what other company versions our members have seen? How do they compare with the original?

I've only seen the Cuban version, which has an interesting story. Alicia Alonso staged it first in 1948 based on two sources. One of them was her own recollections of the shortened version she danced in Havana in 1935-(just two years after N. Sergueyev first staging in London's Saddler's Wells)- and staged by her Russian ballet professor Nikolai Yavorski, which was based on what he recalled back home from the Merante St. Petersburg staging. The other source was what she learned from both the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo's 1938 staging-(premiered by Danilova/Panaieff) AND Ballet Theater's 1942 Semenoff-after-Merante staging-(premiered by Baronova/Dolin). The 1948 Havana premiere had Alonso/Youskevitch in the leads. Later on, in 1957, she re-staged it again for a performance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, where she danced the lead with Andre Eglevsky. From then on, the Cuban Coppelia has remained, just as all her other imported mid-century stagings, untouchable.

I can't wait to see what Miami has to offer. It could be very interesting to see if there's any common points with Alonso's if they decide to honor either Franklin's or Danilova's past stagings. Will report...

Here are two of my best EVER Swanildas...our Cuban darling, AKA "steely pointes" Miss Charin and our very "Queen of Accents", Miss Lorna Feijoo. Swanilda's Act III tutu is the very short, white number with fluffy shoulders/arms pieces which, along with the white headpiece, looks very much like those pics of Danilova I've seen. Then we have Act I PDD with Yolanda Correa as Swanilda and a very young Rolando Sarabia, back when he was FIRE in Havana. Encore presentation by Mme. Alonso as Coppelia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtmJB2G2Grg&feature=related

Ediited to add: I just realize that all the dancers on those clips, except Alonso, are exiled...

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