When the graceful melody of the Coppélia waltz starts I close my eyes, listening to the beautiful score composed by Leo Delibes consisting of mazurkas and waltzes, and conducted by Koen Kessels for the Teatro dell’Opera. The orchestra gives voice and emotion to the gestures of the dancers and throughout, the co-ordination between orchestra and choreography was superlative.
Although at times the diminuendo might have been exaggerated, the melody of the score was executed beautifully. We sway in our seats to the swing of the waltz and we tense at the fraught moments, emphasized with dynamics and the musical phrasing, which makes subtle use of tempo rubato. However, we are not the expert dancers and thus the ephemeral vision of the male and female ballet dancers steal the limelight.
?The chorus of dancers are magnificent, the women in their bustles and period dress and the men in their regimental uniform. Their ability to move with agility and finesse is a wonderful sight to behold. The corps de ballet, consisting of male and female dancers, each with their partners, creates a synchronized backdrop for the principal dancers and the plot. The dancers in the foreground visually enjoy elegantly gliding around the stage. At times movements are elegantly smooth and at others robust and strong. The range of emotions from the eagerness of the women at seeing the officers to their timidity at visiting Coppelius’ house pays homage to the mimetic dance that ballet is.
The stage setting and costumes, chosen by Ezio Frigerio were subtle and complimentary to the dances. The stage setting was simple – a white backdrop and the interior of a house – which enabled an elaborate dress for the dancers without detracting attention from the story.
Swanilda, the prima ballerina danced by Alessia Gay was mesmerizing. Her coquettish movements and expressions and passionate, vivacious rescue of Franz in Coppelius’ house provided a striking character impersonation to counterpart her swan like movements. Swanilda’s dances were expressive although at times a little heavily placed but ultimately beautifully defined. When Alessia Gay dances with the cavalier, Franz, danced by Alessio Rezza a fascinating dialogue is expressed through their steps together. They are symbiotic: their characters bounce off each other and subsequently merge for more tender expressions.
The male premier danseur effortlessly glides across the stage with these giant leaps that land softly on the stage, almost as if defying gravity. Alessio Rezza’s performance was outstanding and his passion for the dance exudes in every pivot and plié made. His movements are fluid and full of grace.
The villain, Coppelius, danced by Luigi Bonino, is a bold, proud and profoundly deluded character in love with his doll Coppelia, which Swanilda ruthlessly destroys. Bonino dances the most spectacular waltz with his doll attached to him. He is hypnotic in his wild turns around the stage and gentler affections towards the inanimate doll.
Coppélia is a comic ballet and subtle improvisations sent a rift of laughter throughout the audience such as when the doll Coppélia seems to extinguish the match with her breath. Yet it is the moments of magic within the performance which demand admiration. The three principal danseurs display a range of character aspects in their visage and their steps. Each character is strongly defined and the combination is irresistible. Complimented by the chorus of dancers in elaborate dress, the show had a finesse and fluidity that is so difficult to perfect.
The premiere of Coppélia was a spectacle not to be missed. If you did, the performance runs until October 6th so make sure to book tickets now!