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Review: Coppelia

Coppelia

The first night of a short season of ballet opened at the Grand Theatre on 9 January. When we arrived, we were quite surprised at the length of the queue on Church Street. Soon, however, were were inside the warmth of the foyer, which was absolutely heaving with avid fans of the ballet.

Although I have been a fan of ballet for some years, this was my first experience of Coppelia, which was written by Delibes and based on E T A Hoffman’s The Sandman. I felt a sense of excitement as the lights dimmed and the show began. The first scene depicted Frantz greeting the townsfolk on his way to visit Swanilda, his fiancée. His trick, of knocking on her door and then hiding behind a flower bed, amusingly backfired on him. Swanilda spotted him and playfully sprinkled him with her watering can. Glancing towards the house of toymaker, Dr. Coppelius, Frantz noticed a beautiful girl on the balcony and waved to her, not realising that she was actually a doll. Dr Coppelius spotted him and animated the doll to wave back and throw a flower. This flirting upset Swanilda and she walked away from Frantz.

Later, in spite of Dr Coppelius’ attempts to lure Frantz into the house to meet Coppelia, Frantz refused, reassuring Swanilda of his love. Later, Dr Coppelius dropped his key, which was then found by Swanilda. She picked it up, and, accompanied by her friends, entered the house to confront her ‘rival’. After exploring the toy workshop, Swanilda found Coppelia and was relieved to see that she was just a doll. At that moment, Frantz climbed in through the window. Swanilda decided to trick him. She changed her clothing for Coppelia’s and sat motionless in her chair. The doctor came back suddenly and everyone apart from Swanilda fled. After threatening Frantz, the doctor agreed to let him meet Coppelia. He gave him a magic flower, which caused him to faint. Dr Coppelius then tried to use Frantz’s life force to bring the doll to life. Unaware of the switch, the doctor watched for the results of his magic. Coppelia (Swanilda) began to move, jerkily and mechanically at first, then flawlessly danced around the room. Coppelius was amazed at the transformation of his doll and tried to get Frantz to leave. Swanilda then revealed her true identity and a devastated doctor discovered the lifeless doll behind a screen.

In the final act, Frantz and Swanilda were married and were joined by their friends, the Burgomaster (the ‘master of the town’) and the villagers for a celebration. A fairy, their patron, blessed the newly-weds. The Doctor arrived with his wedding gift, eager to demonstrate that the doll he created could now dance. The wedding celebrations then continued.

This ballet was notable for its beautiful, expressive dancing, in particular the expressiveness of Frantz.  There were colourful costumes, familiar tunes and an extremely competent orchestra, all of which made this ballet a joy to behold. Knowing the high standards of the ballet company, I feel confident that the rest of the season was magical also.

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