- Coppélia Run-Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with two intermissions
George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova
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The light-hearted comedy of George Balanchine’s classic Coppélia returns by popular demand. Leo Delibes’ score, called by The New York Times, “a classic of melody, orchestration, rhythm, and storytelling,” is at once lively and accessible. With more than 20 children from Boston Ballet School, Coppélia remains a jubilant and engaging classic for the whole family.
In a village in Galicia, once an Austo-Hungarian province on the Carpathian slope, a festival honors a new town bell-tower. Dr. Coppélius, toy-maker, inventor, and magician, exhibits his masterwork, a life-sized doll whom he thinks of as a daughter. Franz, a town bumpkin, loves a local girl, Swanilda, but his interest is piqued by his flirtation with the pretty doll. Franz roughs up Dr. Coppélius with some other townsmen. In their horseplay the key to his studio is lost, which Swanilda later discovers, enabling her and her friends to sneak in.
Dr. Coppélius returns to the studio and expels Swanilda's companions while she hides herself. Franz, following love and curiosity, climbs in a window to the studio. He is soon drugged by Coppélius' potion. The magician imagines he may animate his doll by drawing energy from the sleeping youth. Swanilda, now dressed in Coppélia's clothes, dances a Scottish reel and Spanish fandango. Coppélius, at first in ecstasy over this apparent triumph, is plunged into despair when he uncovers her heartless imposture.
Village couples unite in holiday dress before the mayor for The Festival of Bells. Various occasions upon which the bells are to be rung - for work, prayer, war, peace, dawn, and other golden hours, are celebrated. Swanilda will marry Franz, and Dr. Coppélius ends a broken man.
Synopsis provided courtesy of New York City Ballet with the permission of The Balanchine Trust.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. He came to the United States in late 1933, at the age of 29, accepting the invitation of the young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96), whose great passions included the dream of creating a ballet company in America. At Balanchine's behest, Kirstein was also prepared to support the formation of an American academy of ballet that would eventually rival the long-established schools of Europe.
This was the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934, the first product of the Balanchine-Kirstein collaboration. Several ballet companies directed by the two were created and dissolved in the years that followed, while Balanchine found other outlets for his choreography. Eventually, with a performance on October 11, 1948, the New York City Ballet was born. Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer from 1948 until his death in 1983.
Balanchine's more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), Le Palais de Cristal, later renamed Symphony in C (1947), Orpheus (1948), The Nutcracker (1954), Agon (1957), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), Ballo della Regina (1978), and Mozartiana (1981). His final ballet, a new version of Stravinsky's Variations for Orchestra, was created in 1982.
He also choreographed for films, operas, revues, and musicals. Among his best-known dances for the stage is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, originally created for Broadway's On Your Toes (1936). The musical was later made into a movie.
A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance. This had an inestimable influence on the growth of dance in America. Although at first his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his ballets are now performed by all the major classical ballet companies throughout the world.
The History of Coppélia
Coppélia, considered one of the greatest comic ballets of the 19th century, has remained one of the best-loved classical works in the ballet repertory. Originally choreographed by Arthus St. Léon in 1870, restaged by Petipa in 1884, and revised by Cecchetti in 1894, it has been performed regularly since then. None of St. Léon's original choreography remains in today's productions, and although Acts I and II have retained his ideas and story, the nature of some of the roles has changed.
This staging by Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova - who was considered a definitive Swanilda - also contains the most authentic of the character dances. In Act III, which is totally Balanchine's, the story becomes secondary, as the village festivities are presented as a series of dances, culminating in an all-encompassing grand finale.
In Coppélia, Delibes, along with Nuitter (who devised the original book from E.T.A. Hoffmann's Der Sandmann) and St. Léon, created a work which remains a model of ballet construction. Delibes was a dancer's composer, with the gift of illustrating action, creating atmosphere, and inspiring movement in his music. He attempted to do in his music what the impressionists had achieved in painting - make color matter most. The result was the first symphonic ballet score that included melodic national dancers, musical descriptions that introduced the main characters, and spectacular effects that held the interest of the audience. The music of Coppélia links two great historical periods of ballet - the French Romantic style and the Russian Classical style.
In 1974, when Balanchine decided to add Coppélia to New York City Ballet's repertory, he took the opportunity to gently update the ballet, adding some male solos, more pas de deux, and a new third act. He enlisted Danilova to restage the dancers she knew so well for the first two acts, and to coach the principal roles, originally performed by Patricia McBride (Swanilda), Helgi Tomasson (Frantz), and Shaun O'Brien (Doctor Coppélius).
History provided courtesy of New York City Ballet
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