The Kasatkina and Vasilyov State Academic Classical Ballet Theatre
(Moscow Classical Ballet)
Leo Delibes’s ballet Coppelia/is Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasilyov’s third production based on stories by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann.
They fell for Hoffmann at the very beginning of their creative work. Their ballet /Little Zaches or The Magic Jacket to Nikolay Karetnikov’s music, had waited in the wings for 17 years. It was banned for production not so much because of the avant-garde music, as more because of the plot about Little Zaches, an ugly dwarf who possessed a magic power of appropriating other people’s achievements. “And who do you think of?” was the question that stopped the implementation of the production during many years.
Their next meeting with Hoffman was Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Aiming to be as close as possible to the author’s idea, they introduced Queen Mychylda, her seven-headed son, Prince of Mice, and the turning of the Nutcracker Prince into young Drosselmeyer.
As for Coppelia, this time they based their production on the plot of the libretto written by Grand Opera’s archivist Charles Nuitter and choreographer Arthur Saint Leon after Hoffmann’s “nocturnal novel” Der Sandmann, “a horrifying and absolutely poetic novel” in the genre of romantic thriller. At first they titled their production Automats, but for commercial reasons they changed this title to a more poetic one, Coppelia, or The Girl with Enamel Eyes/, in the spirit of the romantic 19th century. In the ballet, Franz, a young student, rejects his fiancé Swanhilda and falls in love with an automatic doll, Coppelia, made by Dr. Coppelius. But contrary to Hoffmann’s novel, the end is happy. Saint-Leon felt it his duty to entertain the audience, but not to lecture it.
The obviously complicated mysticism of Hoffmann’s text is often compared with the simple story in the ballet libretto. But ballet and literature are absolutely different genres, and Alexander Benois, whose “personal esthetics was awaken” thanks to Coppelia, brought together, as he said, Hoffmann’s “great seriousnee” and Delibes’ “funny joke”. “I’m sure that if Hoffmann had listened to Delibes’ music, he would have been delighted. Anyway, the result is not an ugly distortion, but something all-sufficient in its convincing beauty”.
Coppelia is a ballet by French composer Leo Delibes, who wrote music with Hungarian intonations after the Hoffmann story. The ballet brings together the traditions of French, Italian and Russian choreography. The life of people and of an automatic robot and their relationships, even in the romantically poetic genre of the ballet, which was first shown on May 25, 1870, in Paris, still have a great appeal to ballet-goers.
Kasatkina and Vasilyov have preserved the atmosphere of Hoffmann’s mystery, though without an allusion to the original’s gloom.
This version of Coppelia by the Classical Ballet Theatre has a lot of surprises in store for the audience: the process of creating a perfect automat – a moving Doll, the division of Coppelia; “alive” furniture: an armchair, a bookcase, a music box; fantastic mechanisms, and genuine sets and marvelous costumes by Elizaveta Dvorkina. Bright choreography and talented adaptation of ancient dance pieces, created by the choreographers Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasilyov, have made for a new image of the ballet.