Recently I went to see The Australian Ballet’s opening night of Coppelia at the Palais Theatre. I found this ballet very entertaining and charming because of the way the dancers and musicians expressed themselves through the art of ballet and composition.
Coppelia (also known as the Girl with the Enamel Eyes) is the story of two lovers, Swandilia and Franz and their neighbour, the peculiar Dr Coppelius, and his bizarre house next door. Dr Coppelius has a strange, mysterious daughter. Swandilia must overcome the matter of Franz being locked away in the daunting and forbidding house next door.
The opening of the ballet was set in sepia tones and felt very cosy and warm, before revealing the set behind the curtain. The set had many different aspects to it. In Act II, there were so many amazing things on the stage, that I wasn’t sure what to look at first! The way that the dancers moved was absolutely mesmerising. It was a very sharp contrast between them staying still and stiff as a doll, to then moving so gracefully across the stage only seconds later.
There was one dancer in particular that caught my eye, a small, slim black and white themed mannequin. She rolled across the stage and moved in a way that I actually though it was a prop. Another dancer was headless, and they captured this so perfectly that young children would have been a little bit frightened. There was also one particular scene in which Dr Coppelius dropped his keys, and he made it look like such an accident that I thought it wasn’t meant to happen until Swandilia went to pick them up.
The music from the orchestra was very familiar and I felt somehow accustomed to it. Everything was very playful, especially the opening in the beginning. Everything gave me tingles and reminded me of childhood, how everything came alive and awake even though seconds before it was so still and doll-like. And of course the familiar smell of the long-standing theatre was very satisfying!
At the very end, a very young dancer came out as an angel boy and stole the show. He was carried on the shoulders and was holding a flame as if he was a miniature Statue of Liberty. I will always remember this ballet because it was very memorable and because the way the dancers moved to suit their roles was amazing and very fitting. The music was amazing and the set and costumes were very elaborate, extravagant, ostentatious and ornate. So much work would have been put into them.
In the end, Swandilia and Franz wed and so did many of their friends, and lived happily ever after. There are a few alternate endings, one being that an angry Dr Coppelius barges in on the wedding, and is given a bag of money and jewels as a temptation to go away.
I did find the ending that we saw very satisfying and feel-good, as they wed and lived happily. That suited the spirit of the ballet we had just seen and enjoyed so much.
(i) Introducing a new writer to Classic Melbourne, Genna Yanko, aged 15, and one of my nieces, a regular companion of mine to the ballet, whose opinions I have often quoted. I am delighted that Genna’s first chance to speak for herself comes with this account of Coppelia at the Palais, as my own interest in dance and opera was stirred in childhood by accompanying my father to first nights at that grand old theatre.
Genna’s ambition is to be a writer.
(ii) The picture of ChengwuGuo and Australian Ballet artists was taken by Jeff Busby.