An Evening in the Kingdom of Puppets – Coppélia at Volksoper Vienna, 11th of October 2023
„Coppélia“ is often referred to as the last French romantic ballet. The famous ballet master George Balanchine remarked that while Giselle is recognised as the greatest tragedy in the history of ballet, Coppélia is the greatest ballet comedy. In both ballets, the main characters learn their life lesson. Indeed, from the very first minutes of the first ac, we see echoes of the ballet Giselle on stage – the scenery of a small village and a pretty girl coming out of her cottage house in a bell tutu. The plot is based on Hoffmann’s short story „The Sandman“ and tells us a story about a young man who falls in love with a mechanical doll. By the way, this story is especially relevant nowadays – artificial beauty standards are so popular all over the world.
This performance is full of candy sweetness and good cheer thanks to memorable melodies, catchy sets and funny situations and allows the audience to be whisked away to a fairytale land full of unexpected situations and of course love stories.
Alfred Eschwé, who is at the conductor’s desk this evening, conducts this three-act performance with charm, grace and melodic richness, with all the nuances of the national dances with which this ballet is so proud.
The production has been restored as close as possible to the text of the first director, the greatest ballet magician Arthur Saint-Leon by Pierre Lacotte, who is the premier ballet archaeologist, and master of reviving almost completely forgotten ballets.
Oddball Coppelius, played by a Spanish dancer Andrés Garcia Torres, creates moving puppets and among them is the beautiful Coppelia. This character is different from Coppelius in Hoffmann’s dystopian story, who is trying to fulfil the alchemists‘ dream of creating a homunculus, an artificial human being. In the novel, Coppelius wants to insert into the eye sockets of the new creature the eyes of the young hero of the novel, to attach to the body of the monster the arms and legs of a boy. This is a real atmospheric horror fairy-tale not for children at all! But in this ballet, it’s very different. Despite his young age, the dancer manages to convey the laughing character of a puppeteer who is completely in his own world and lives only by his creations. These small character roles make the ballet particularly memorable and interesting for the young audience, of which there are many on this evening.
The main female role in tonight’s ballet is performed by Kyioka Hashimoto, who can be seen at the end of October in Giselle at the Vienna State Opera. Tonight she easily manages to show three different characters: the angry and offended girl, the puppet who mocks both the puppeteer and the hapless groom simultaneously, and the triumphant bride. Her choreography looked neat and organic and we hope to see Kyoko in other roles soon.
The main male part is performed by Alexey Popov, a young graduate of the Vaganova School (St Petersburg), who is distinguished by his lightness and beautiful leaps. Unfortunately, his part is small and does not allow him to open up fully because in this ballet the main character’s accents are more focused on stage dialogues and pantomime than on the usual fireworks of technical tricks.
In general, thanks to its voluminous scenery, colourful costumes and fairy-tale action, the ballet looks entertaining and allows you to be carried away to a fairy-tale land at least for one evening, leaving everyday worries behind.