Léo DELIBES (1835-91)
Ballet: Coppélia (ou La Fille aux yeux
.. Marina Abdullayeva
The Kirov Ballet
Maryinsky Theatre Orchestra conducted by Alexandre
WARNER MUSIC VISION / NVC
ARTS 4509-94190-2 [91 mins]
There is a CD-ROM content with a commentary on the ballet by Harlow
It is often forgotten that Delibes wrote only three ballets (the other two
were Sylvia and La Source, ou Naïla) but more than twenty
operatic works (including the exotic Lakmé) yet he is mainly
remembered for this sparkling romantic-comedy ballet. Coppélia
has been a firm favourite of balletomanes since it's acclaimed premiere in
Paris in 1870. Delibes and his collaborator, Arthur Saint-Léon, drew
on several Hoffmann stories particularly Der Sandman that involved
a mysterious inventor who could make his toys come to life. But as Jacques
Offenbach's adaptation was somewhat tragic, so Delibes opted for a less serious,
more frothy and popular approach, with a happy ending.
Coppélia is Coppelius's lifelike toy doll who attracts Franz to the
dismay of his fiancée, Swanilda. She, with her friends, enterprisingly
steals into Coppelius's workshop and discovers the truth that Coppélia
is just a doll. Whilst they are there they discover other dolls who dance
characteristically: a Chinese doll with typical Chinese style music and
movements, a Spanish doll who has a proud and haughty dance, a Scottish doll
with fierce, wild movements brandishing daggers in each hand and a contortionist
of a nutcracker toy soldier. (All these dances are performed with great spirit
and élan and are fully in character. They are a highlight of the Second
Scene of Act I). Then a drunken Franz enters with Coppelius who tries to
divert his attention from Coppélia by showing him his other dolls.
But to no avail: Franz is set on Coppélia who he discovers sitting
behind a screen. But it is really Swanilda disguised as Coppélia and
when he discovers his mistake Franz is duly remorseful but Swanilda and her
friends are inclined to be unforgiving. The second Act story is really very
slight. Everybody in the village is on the green celebrating the blessing
of a new bell. After a lot of persuading Swanilda and Franz are reunited
and married but, at the end, she plays a little joke on him changing places
with the doll, Coppélia, once more, to rub in Franz's lesson.
The world famous Kirov Ballet does not disappoint. The very first dance by
a very smooth and fluid Coppelius sets the standard. The principals are
excellent: technically polished and beautifully in character. The ensemble
dancing of the corps de ballet seems well-nigh faultless. All the Act II
set dances, so many with national overtones (mazurka and csárdás)
impress. The set design is imaginative and the costumes colourfully romantic.
And the music, so popular and brimming with memorable melodies, is exuberantly
performed by the Maryinsky Theatre Orchestra. DVD sound has wide dynamics
and perspectives and the visuals are crystal clear.
Harlow Robinson's article about the history of the ballet, printable from
the CD-ROM element, is useful and informative. A vivacious entertainment.