Coppélia, Ballet by Pierre Lacotte
Already at its premiere on 25 May 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial l'Opéra in Paris, the fantastical and comical ballet Coppélia left audiences stunned. The imagination of E. T. A. Hoffmann, whose stories The Sandman and The Doll served as basis for the engaging libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter, and the expressive musicality of Léo Delibes provided an excellent basis for the inspired original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon. As almost-human automata enchanted the awe-struck humans on stage and in the audience, Coppélia instantly found its permanent place in the ballet pantheon. The Vienna Volksoper gives this work a fresh treatment.
Coppélia’s reign as a ballet classic was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian war, and in its subsequent revivals parts of its last act were cut out and eventually presumed lost. Volksoper Wien now puts on the fully reconstructed version that French ballet master and choreographer Pierre Lacotte painstakingly produced in 1973. Thanks to his efforts, the storyline is complete again, and the dance numbers remain true to Saint-Léon’s original vision and style. Thus, this production stands out with a choreography that is at once technical and musical, tasteful and refined. Backed by Delibes’ wonderful iterations of traditional European dances such as mazurka or csárdás, the onstage movements simply hypnotise.
The plot of Coppélia hinges upon the mysterious inventor Doctor Coppélius and his uncannily human-looking doll, Coppélia. She captures the imagination of Franz, much to the displeasure of his fiancée Swanhilda. The Doctor welcomes the young man’s attention but for a sinister reason: to make Coppélia come to life, he needs a human sacrifice. Who will be the unlucky victim, will love prevail, and will the beautiful pale doll awaken as a living, breathing person? Anything is possible in this fascinating ballet performance.