Coppélia was the first full length classical production performed by Milwaukee Ballet 41 years ago. It has been presented several times since its debut but not during my eight year tenure, so I felt it was time for me to stage this romantic comic ballet.
Coppélia was the last ballet of the romantic era to be staged in Paris 1870, with music by Léo Delibes and choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon. The scenario is very loosely based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story Der Sandmann. It was arguably the most successful comic ballet ever performed in Paris. It came at a time in ballet history when the male dancer had fallen out of favor so a female ballerina would perform the principle role of Franz, this was also a tradition in the popular English Pantomime.
The role of Dr. Coppélius has traditionally been a non-dancing role, therefore I wanted to invite esteemed actor Daniel Mooney to play the role. All too often this role can be played as a ‘doddering old fool’ with way too much make-up. I wanted to explore the depth of this character and his obsession with being able to create life, á la Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The ballet is in three short acts. By the end of the second act the story is told so the third act was a series of traditional divertissement, unrelated to the story. In subsequent productions the third act was cut and remained absent for many years. It was reinstated as audiences developed a desire to see more dancing.
It is my intention to stage a very traditional looking production, paying homage to the dance steps that are by and large regarded as close to the original for the lead characters. The Mazurka, Czardas and third act divertissement will all be new choreography. As with all my classical productions I try to challenge and extend the dance opportunities for the Company dancers. I would also like to give the production as naturalistic a feel as possible; it is invariably produced as a very lightweight production verging on being ‘rather silly’.
The second act takes place in Dr. Coppélius’ workshop surrounded by mechanical automations. At the time Coppélius was created, such fantastical automations were seen in traveling shows throughout Europe. The talented dancers of our Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II program will once again be joining us on stage to perform these and other roles.
Coppélia closes another very exciting and successful season for the Ballet. I trust you will agree that the scale and scope of choreography you have seen this season continues to reinforce the power and beauty of dance and how fortunate we are to have such highly talented artists in our community.
Enjoy the show,
Michael Pink, Artistic Director