CBJ’s 2018/19 season will feature one of the longest-lived comedic ballets, Coppélia. Bengt Jörgen’s version is titled Coppélia: A Comedy with Love.
Because Coppélia is such a rarity of comedic Ballets, we wanted to delve a little into the history of how Coppélia came to be and outline some compelling facts about the Ballet.
The Original Coppelia (subtitled: La fille aux yeux d’émail or The Girl with Enamel eyes)
The original story of Coppélia was taken by the archivist of the Paris Opera Charles Nuitter, from E. T. A. Hoffman’s short story Der Sandmann (The Sandman). It was the first in an 1817 book of stories titled Die Nachtstücke (The Night Pieces). It is a story about the main character, Nathanael, his fiancée Clara, and her brother Lothar. Nathanael is haunted by the memory of a traumatic childhood experience connected to his father’s death and a mysterious malevolent figure called Coppélius whom, as a child, he used to identify with the monstrous, eye-stealing Sandman who might or might not be real.
Charles Nuitter was a fantasy author and the story of Coppélia introduced the ballet world to automatons, dolls, and marionettes that produced many thematic offshoots, eventually leading to the Russian puppet Petrushka for the 1911 original Ballet titled Petrushka.
Coppélia premiered on May 25, 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial l’Opéra, with 16-year old Giuseppina Bozzacchi in the principal role of Swanhilda, Eugénie Fiocre as Franz and François Dauty as Dr. Coppélius.
The original choreographer, Saint-Léon was born September 17, 1821 in Paris and was the Maître de Ballet (Ballet Master) of St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet from 1859 until 1869. Saint Léon was made famous for creating the choreography for Coppélia and he was described as having a freshness that is imaginative and a delicateness that is quite inventive, especially in the academic solo parts that mingle with the folk overtones of the many character dances (mazurka, czardas, gig, bolero, etc.) interspersed throughout the ballet.
The original composer, Clément Philibert Léo Delibes was a French composer of the Romantic era (1815–1910), who specialized in ballets. The music is an essential component of the ballet and was seen as an unprecedented masterpiece in nineteenth-century ballet by critics and his peers. Many believe that Léo Delibes is still undervalued today and that he appears as Tchaikovsky’s only predecessor in the musical renaissance of modern ballet.
Unfortunately, Coppélia came to a tragic end being the last ballet produced at the Opera before the Franco-Prussian War forced the theatre to close its doors. This marked the end of that period for ballet. The choreographer Saint-Leon died three months after the first performance of Coppélia, and the following November, ballerina Giuseppina Bozzacchi died from smallpox on her seventeenth birthday.
Today, the brilliance of Coppélia is still being performed in ballet companies across the world as well as adaptations into popular culture. CBJ will perform Coppélia: A Comedy with Love across 7 provinces and into the United States for its 31st Season.
“The entire Jörgen company fills the stage with such
exquisite life you are swept along for an entertaining ride.”
– Gary Smith, The Hamilton Spectator
Choreographed by Bengt Jörgen and set to the original score by Léo Delibes, CBJ’s production of Coppélia originally premiered in 2001 and is an international co-production between Canada’s Ballet Jörgen and The Hong Kong Ballet. It remains true in most respects to the traditional production, Bengt Jörgen’s original choreography still has influences of E. T. A. Hoffman’s short story Der Sandmann (The Sandmann); the characters Nathanael and Klara are named after the characters in the Sandman, rather than Franz and Swanilda in the original. Bengt’s Coppélia explores the boundaries that separate the real from the ideal and the creator from his creation.
Bengt Jörgen’s Coppélia is a daring, bold and funny story that takes us into the mysterious mind of Dr. Coppélius, a lonely and disillusioned toy maker who wishes he could bring a perfect doll to life. Dr. Coppélius creates Coppélia, a stunning, life-sized dancing doll. The story’s beauty and hilarity develop quickly as Nathanael — one of the local villagers — falls madly in love with the perfect doll. To punish Nathanael for being smitten with Coppélia, his sweetheart, Klara, enacts revenge as she pretends to be Coppélia, fooling both Nathanael and Dr. Coppélius. The resulting realizations and decisions made by each character leave all feeling fulfilled and joyfully alive.
CBJ’s retelling of the story will be sure to delight audiences of all ages. The production reflects CBJ’s classical identity and storytelling approach with humour, intimacy and dramatic intensity.
Coppélia: A Comedy with Love will feature 16 professional dancers, as well as performing opportunities for aspiring young dancers through the company’s Local Participant Program.
The Coppélia performance season includes two very important artistic partnerships with Symphony Nova Scotia in Halifax and the Billings Symphony Orchestra in Sheridan, Wyoming. This will be the first time CBJ performs Coppélia with live music, a concrete result of our efforts to offer more programming with orchestras.
Coppélia: A Comedy with Love is one of the company’s most popular family ballets. Don’t miss your chance to see it!
Tickets on sale now at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge, Cambridge, ON N1S 2L8
For a complete list of tour dates visit: https://canadasballetjorgen.ca/cbjs-2018-2019-season-announced/
Tickets on sale soon across Canada.
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