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Coppélia


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(La Fille aux yeux d'émail)

Ballet in three acts with choreography by Saint-Léon, libretto by Charles Nuitter and Saint-Léon, music by Delibes, scenery by Cambon, Despléchin, and Lavastre (or Levastre), and costumes by Alfred Albert. Premiered 25 May 1870 at the Paris Opera with Bozzacchi as Swanilda and Eugénie Fiocre as Franz. The ballet is based on E. T. A. Hoffmann's story Der Sandmann (although it is much more light-hearted than the macabre original) and weaves the romance of Swanilda and Franz into a tale of the old toy maker Dr Coppelius, who dreams of bringing one of his mechanical doll to life. Franz falls in love with the doctor's creation, Coppélia, believing her to be human, but returns to Swanilda at the end when all indiscretions are forgotten in the final grand divertissement. The ballet was noted for its ingenious integration of classical and folk dance material and remains one of the most popular works in the international repertoire, although little remains of the original Saint-Léon choreography. In its original staging, the role of Franz was danced by a woman. The Paris Opera continued the traditional en travestie casting as late as 1958. The first production in London was a one-act version at the Empire Theatre on 8 Nov. 1884. A full-length staging was premiered on the same stage on 14 May 1906 with Adeline Genée as Swanilda. The first New York production was on 11 Mar. 1887, given by the American Opera at the Metropolitan Opera House with Marie Giuri and Felicita Carozzi. Petipa staged his own version in St Petersburg in 1884, which cast Franz as a male dancer. This was the production brought to the West by Sergeyev who mounted a two-act version (after Petipa and Cecchetti) for the Vic-Wells Ballet with Lydia Lopokova as Swanilda and Stanley Judson as Franz on 21 Mar. 1933. A three-act version for the Sadler's Wells Ballet followed on 15 Apr. 1940 with Mary Honer as Swanilda and Robert Helpmann as Franz. On 2 Mar. 1954 de Valois staged the full-length ballet at Covent Garden with new designs by Osbert Lancaster, a production which was revived by the Royal Ballet in 2000. The work has received countless new stagings, including Pierre Lacotte's reconstruction of the original Saint-Léon for the Paris Opera in 1973, Balanchine and Danilova's for New York City Ballet in 1974, Roland Petit's for Marseilles in 1975 with Karen Kain as Swanilda, Peter Wright's for Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet (1976) and for Birmingham Royal Ballet (1995), and Sergei Vikharev's for the Bolshoi (2009).

Subjects: Dance.


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