Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

The Bolshoi in HD: "Coppelia"

On Sunday, August 28th, we went to see the HD broadcast of the Bolshoi Ballet's production of "Coppelia," as choreographed by Marius Petipa and recreated by Sergei Vikharev (with Enrico Cecchetti's 1894 notations) to the music by Leo Delibes. Natalia Osipova was again the prima ballerina, dancing the role of Swanhilda, and Viacheslav Lopatin as Frantz.

It was very interesting to compare this "Coppelia" both with the recent production by Micheal Pink and the Milwaukee Ballet, and the one we saw at the Vienna Staatsoper when we were in Austria. In this production, for example, Swanhilda's "look at me" pas de ane, in which she is trying to catch the doll's attention, opens the ballet, instead of being near the middle of the first act, which changed some emphasis later on.  We were somewhat amused to observe that the program notes indicated that the story is set in Galicia (northern Spain), despite the character names. The costuming was definitely Austro-Hungarian, with the countryfolk coming in to town for the festival definitely Hungarian, and their choreography distinctly Russian-flavored. In another curious detail, the current flag of the Republic of Austria flew in front of the village hall rather than the more correct Austria-Hungary--which just goes to show that, good as the Bolshoi is, they can't be perfect in everything--.

The dancing was, of course, very fine, and as close to perfect as one might see. The dramatic second act was as good as any I have seen, although I still prefer the dancing Coppelius role as done in Vienna. The introductory remarks made note not only of Bolshoi traditions not only in music and dance, but also in mime, and I was able to observe a consistent vocabulary of gesture in use by the characters--almost a sort of sign language, which was very interesting and made it easy to see when different characters were "discussing" similar things.

The third act was somewhat streamlined, with the scene in which Coppelius demands justice and is compensated with money, edited down to a brief episode where Coppelius stalks across the stage bearing his ruined doll in his arms (I was reminded of the scene in the 1931 Frankenstein film, where the villager comes into town carrying the body of his drowned daughter--). I thought it rather heartless that Coppelius' injuries were given such short shrift amid the general celebrations of the marriage festival, which keeps this otherwise gorgeous ballet from being my favorite version. 

EDIT: Re; Geography. Galicia is indeed a region of north eastern Spain, as I knew. However, Galicia (spelling anglicized from the Polish Galicja, Ukranian Halychyna) is also "a colloquial name imposed by the invaders participating in the Partions of Poland to describe the south-eastern territories of the First Polish Republic." (ref. Wikipedia), although the Hungarian version of the name appears to have been in use since the 1200's. In 1772, Galicia was the largest part of the area annexed by Austria in the First Partition of Poland.  Adjacent to the Carpathian Mountains, it is this region in which Hoffman's story, and the ballet, would have been set. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: ballet, bolshoi

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