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Royal Ballet - Coppelia (Dec. 2019 - Jan. 2020)

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3 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

For anyone interested in the designs, there's an article in the Spectator about Osbert Lancaster and the ballet: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/11/from-cartoons-to-stage-design-the-genius-of-osbert-lancaster/

 

(I don't think it's appeared in the Links - apologies if it's been posted elsewhere.)

 

Thanks Lizbie.  The Spectator articles don't always turn up in our searches but I'm including it in tomorrow's links thanks to you linking it here!

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Talking of Osbert Lancaster, I was thrilled to see this report from the opening night of the RB’s 1954 production at a recent ROH collections event.

 

 

2CCB69BD-ABF8-4730-A538-6A563816D4F2.jpeg

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On 29/11/2019 at 17:34, Beryl H said:

The RB Benjamin/Acosta DVD is the same production, I like it very much, Leanne Benjamin took over at short notice, there is also an excellent performance of the Prayer solo, one of my favourites, by Zenaida Yanovsky. 

 

I don't suppose you can remember who Leanne Benjamin replaced? It was nagging at me the other day as I couldn't remember. I'm wondering if it was Miyako Yoshida?

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If you don't remember the beginning of that run of Coppelia, it was ... a bit difficult: it was to be a long run, with three senior casts in the first weeks and then a gap followed by a set of debutantes as Swanilda. Yoshida and Acosta did the first night; the second cast was announced as Belinda Hatley and Ethan Stiefel but Hatley was injured and out for the whole run so Benjamin stood in for her, and two days later did her own scheduled performance with Angel Corella. Then Yoshida hurt her back and Benjamin also danced with Acosta, including at the televised performance. To  save Benjamin from having to dance every show, they brought Sarah Wildor's debut forward about 2 months and she did one performance with Stiefel (she was magical - I've never seen it done better) but she hurt her foot that night and didn't dance again till the second half of the run. Benjamin deserved a medal , or a lot of champagne at least.

 

Am I right in thinking, from the photos that have been posted of the cast sheets, that they don't give any casting this time for Act 3 apart from the soloists, and no listing at all of the different bits of the masque of the hours?

 

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I'm afraid so, Jane :(

 

I hadn't realized the situation was quite so bad back in 2006, or whenever it was, but I do remember that Benjamin was a very late substitute for Yoshida - was it on the day of the performance?  (And also that the timing was moved back, I think to 7.30, to make it a live broadcast from the ROH.  I remember the amphitheatre was quite underpopulated in Act III as all the people who'd booked an early start performance so they could get home to places further afield had to leave to catch their trains)

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It was a very long run in 2000. (I think that's what Jane was referring to.) Details are in the ROH performance database here. (scroll down) You can see how many performances Benjamin did. 

 

http://www.rohcollections.org.uk/production.aspx?production=1929&row=1

 

I thought I recalled seeing Sarah Wildor also paired with Kobborg, later in the run and I did. I don't think they danced together otherwise. 

 

I see Morera, Nunez and Galeazzi were all friends of Swanhilda at that time. 

 

 

Edited by Lynette H
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Fascinating to see who else was further down the ranks then, too, including a couple of later principals performing the dolls in Act II!

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38 minutes ago, alison said:

Fascinating to see who else was further down the ranks then, too, including a couple of later principals performing the dolls in Act II!

 I just picked a date at random, and found Jamie Tapper and Cojocaru in the cast list as well.  

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I showed Kevin O'Hare my programme of the first time I saw Coppelia (also my first visit to ROH), 22nd January 1955. He almost drooled over the cast listing, not only for who but also because it listed everyone, and I mean everyone. He said he wishes they could do that now, especially the dolls, but it would most likely necessitate too many cast change announcements.

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59 minutes ago, MargaretN7 said:

I showed Kevin O'Hare my programme of the first time I saw Coppelia (also my first visit to ROH), 22nd January 1955. He almost drooled over the cast listing, not only for who but also because it listed everyone, and I mean everyone. He said he wishes they could do that now, especially the dolls, but it would most likely necessitate too many cast change announcements.

 

I'm surprised he wants to list the dolls. In his shoes, I would go for mentioning the corps groups, if not the dancers' names, in Act 3 as this would be helpful to the audience.

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I have just read this thread and have picked up the earlier discussion about the story.  The ear of corn has been fully explained, but no mention has been made of the butterfly.  In Act I Swanilda leaves the stage whilst Franz is flirting with Coppelia.  When she returns, she is chasing a butterfly.  Franz captures it (the moment when they are both grovelling on their knees).  He pins it in his lapel and upsets Swanilda with his cruelty.

 

The TV performance from 2000 was supposed to be with Miyako Yoshida, but she was injured and Leanne Benjamin (who was also dancing in the run) replaced her at a day's notice.  The key acting role of Dr Coppelius was played by Luke Heydon, who had already retired from the company, but was invited back for this important role.  Amongst the cast were Laura Morera and Jonathan Howells as soloist peasants, Marianela Nunez and Mara Galeazzi amongst Swanilda's friends and Bennet Gartside and Edward Watson in the corps.  In Act 3, Philip Mosley is already the innkeeper in 2000 and a rather lanky Christopher Saunders is the duke.  Sian Murphy is one of the hours and Sam Raine is amongst the girls in the "Work" movement, brandishing a sickle.  A young James Wilkie is amongst the Royal Ballet School students.

 

Act 3 ends with a grand divertissement, the Festival of the Bell, for which Delibes wrote eight movements.  It begins with what Delibes called the Waltz of the Hours (although there are only 8 of them - the music strikes sixteen times and the 8 hours go round the clock twice), followed by solos for Aurora (Dawn) and Prayer.  Delibes entitled the fourth movement "Work, or the Spinner".  It features eight girls, either harvesting or spinning.  The fifth movement is the betrothal dance for the six wedding couples.  At this point Petipa had a problem, because he wanted to conclude with the de rigeur classical pas de deux, but Delibes' score did not allow for this.  So he brings in the seventh movement {"Peace") for the adage of the pas de deux, then returns to the sixth movement ("War, or Discord") for Franz' boisterous variation.  Running out of music, Petipa interpolates music from elsewhere for Swanilda's variation.  The musical score and ballet end with the rousing Galop Finale, into which Petipa cleverly incorporates the coda of the pas de deux, as well as the final ensemble.

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9 hours ago, Jane S said:

Sarah Wildor's debut forward about 2 months and she did one performance with Stiefel (she was magical - I've never seen it done better) 

 

She certainly was magical! So lucky to have seen her. 

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1 hour ago, Tony Newcombe said:

she was stressed rotten

 

*liked* for the clever wordplay, not the info...

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She was a principal dancer, widely admired, and she came in at the beginning of Ross Stretton's season to find that her first leading role (not counting Nutcracker, which everyone did) was something like the sixth cast of Giselle, in Aptril - so she decided that rather than hanging on at Covent Garden, getting bitter, she would rather leave and continue her career elsewhere.

 

(All in the public domain)

 

I have sometimes wondered if Stretton had ever seen her onstage .

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Probably not, if he hadn't cast her in anything.  And I always felt he didn't appreciate Ashton dancers - Belinda Hatley tended to get downgraded as well.

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17 hours ago, li tai po said:

 

Act 3 ends with a grand divertissement, the Festival of the Bell, for which Delibes wrote eight movements.  It begins with what Delibes called the Waltz of the Hours (although there are only 8 of them - the music strikes sixteen times and the 8 hours go round the clock twice), followed by solos for Aurora (Dawn) and Prayer.  Delibes entitled the fourth movement "Work, or the Spinner".  It features eight girls, either harvesting or spinning.  The fifth movement is the betrothal dance for the six wedding couples.  At this point Petipa had a problem, because he wanted to conclude with the de rigeur classical pas de deux, but Delibes' score did not allow for this.  So he brings in the seventh movement {"Peace") for the adage of the pas de deux, then returns to the sixth movement ("War, or Discord") for Franz' boisterous variation.  Running out of music, Petipa interpolates music from elsewhere for Swanilda's variation.  The musical score and ballet end with the rousing Galop Finale, into which Petipa cleverly incorporates the coda of the pas de deux, as well as the final ensemble.

 

Great information thank you. Despite this programme being very informative I felt it lacked this 'basic' information (unless I missed something!) i.e. names of the different 'movements/dances' in Act 3 and it would have been nice to have more about their 'meaning' also. I can see why the cast list can't have this information, but it would be nice to at least get the 'names' of the dances like the Act 3 variations in Sleeping Beauty, even if it is credited to 'Artists of the Royal Ballet'. 

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On 03/12/2019 at 16:41, Lynette H said:

It was a very long run in 2000. (I think that's what Jane was referring to.) Details are in the ROH performance database here. (scroll down) You can see how many performances Benjamin did. 

 

http://www.rohcollections.org.uk/production.aspx?production=1929&row=1

 

I thought I recalled seeing Sarah Wildor also paired with Kobborg, later in the run and I did. I don't think they danced together otherwise. 

 

I see Morera, Nunez and Galeazzi were all friends of Swanhilda at that time. 

 

 

Thank you for posting the link. However not all the performances are on this list - I have a programme for 28 December 1968, but that isn’t on there. It featured Diana Vere and Keith Martin in the principal roles and Lesley Collier was one of Swanilda’s friends (I think). My daughter says we also saw Coppelia in the early 2000s - perhaps one of the performances in that long run! 

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Came back Home after today evening performance by Hayward and Campbell. It is the first time I see RB Coppelia in person. I have seen the production on DVD and other companies recording.

 

The acting skill of RB is fantastic. Especially a vote for Gary's old doctor! But I feel that the mime in Act II is too long. Maybe it is a way to give Swanilda more time to recharge? It seems not that long on DVD but feel a bit "over" in person. 

 

Hayward's dancing is very good. Like her Scots dance a lot. (it is Scotland right?) I have not seen her full length ballet a lot due to a lot of her absence in the past year. I feel that Swanilda is a good fit for her. There is no much dancing for Campbell. One thing I noticed during their wedding PDD adagio in Act III. When Hayward "sat" down and pulled up standing by Campbell(a move quite like white swan PDD), her supporting foot was en pointe but the ankle was bended when she was in the progress of standing up. Don't know the technical word for it. But I felt a little bit weird.

 

Fumi Kaneko's solo was very nice. Fumi was always some highlight for my past several visited to RB this year. Very delightful. I see she is growing into the next level. Hope the great momentum continues! 

 

Regarding the production. The stage setting and the costume are great. But the choreography seems a bit out of fashion comparing to what I see in other companies recording. The footwork for Spanish and Scots dances in Act II leave me a feeling of "small", then I realise that maybe now I am hoping to see more jumps and "big" move in a variation, but not that in fashion back then. Yep it is delicate but I wish to have a bit of more "spice" element in it. 

 

Again in Act III, too many female corp dancing. Yep they dance good. But I hope to add some more male element to balance it.

 

 

Edited by HelenLoveAppleJuice
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If I understand you correctly Helen it seems that while you enjoyed the performance you saw on Wednesday you want to rework Coppelia to turn it into something it was never intended to be and for which Delibes foolishly made no provision in his score.  

 

I suspect that one of the reasons why the choreography for this ballet looks old fashioned and odd to some is that it retains many of the features to be found in ballets created earlier in the nineteenth century because unlike  Sleeping Beauty it has not had the dubious benefit of having Soviet heroic style male choreography grafted onto it at any time. Much of the choreography we see in the de Valois production dates back to the version of the ballet staged in St Petersburg during the 1890's. That the version of the ballet currently in repertory at Covent Garden has choreography which retains significant elements of late nineteenth century dance vocabulary including mime sequences is not, in my opinion, a defect but rather a strength as it means it retains  its connections with the theatrical conventions of the period in which it was created. The mime sequences enables the characters to inform the audience about matters which are relevant in furthering the narrative . I am  far from sure how you would achieve this in any other way. as what the characters have to say is not the sort of thing that is easily conveyed by expressive dancing. 

 

Coppelia was first staged in Paris in  the late 1860's a time when male dancers had virtually been banished from the  Paris Opera stage. If you had seen it in its original form you would have seen Franz treated as a travesti role performed by a female dancer, a tradition which was continued , as I understand it, by the POB until the the ear;y 1950's The version which the Royal Ballet performs derives from a staging of the work first seen in St Petersburg in the mid 1890's in which Ivanov and Cecchetti are said to have had a hand. Perhaps the most important innovation of that production was to depart from the French performing tradition of treating  Franz as a travesti role by giving the role to a male dancer. This made it necessary to create a pas  de deux for the third act which would give both leading characters their expected solos and  coda. The ballet was modified over a century ago to accommodate the presence of a male dancer in the role of Franz and his choreography reflects what male dancers were performing in the 1890's rather than what they came to dance after the Revolution. In the de Valois production the music used for this is taken from sections of the ballet's score which had become redundant. I am not sure that you could give Franz  more opportunity to dance without rewriting the libretto. He can hardly dance in the second act as he spends most of it unconscious after drinking Coppelius' wine. The third act contains the masque of the hours and there is no music to spare unless you intend to cut the participation of the corps and soloists and if you were to take that course of action you might free up some music but little of it would seem suitable for Franz to dance to. I have to say that I do not understand why people have suddenly taken to saying that the sequence of dances celebrating the bell makes no sense. We need to remember that the church bell was the first piece of technology which regulated the the day's activities telling people when it was time to get up, time to pray, time to work and time to rest and relax. Thus in the ballet we have the night hours followed by Dawn and Prayer which are in turn followed by the working day.

 

As far as the strangeness of some  elements of the choreography is concerned mime and clear, crisp, fast footwork are as much part of the vocabulary of classical ballet as steps of elevation are. Watching someone doing petit batterie accurately and at speed can be extraordinarily exilharating in performance, To eliminate such steps and replace them with the sort of limited dance vocabulary which has today become the standard format of most of the male variations to be seen in the nineteenth century repertory deprives both dancers and audiences of the opportunity to experience a significant part of the vocabulary of classical ballet in performance . l don't think that old choreography  should be changed merely to meet the expectations of the audience because they have become used to seeing other steps which they consider more exciting and more modern as this diminishes the art form. The whole point about dancing the historically significant ballets which de Valois called "the classics" is to enable the audience to see the best of the ballets created by the great choreographers of the past; experience their work as living theatre and to enable today's dancers to test them selves against the technical challenges posed by the great dancers of the past in the choreography created for them. Altering the the choreography denies the dancers and the audience of the opportunity to experience and engage with the great works of the past in something approaching their original form.Refusing to engage with the past in this way was an approach to the arts which the late Jonathan Miller's once described as  "provincial".

 

Edited by FLOSS
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I did get a sense that having in a sense to 'scale back' was a real effort for some of the dancers, both male and female. Huge extensions and jumps with everything done to the maximum (rather than to a defined scale) have become so much the norm that it must be very difficult for their bodies to adjust. But when they do, the rewards are enormous.

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On 04/12/2019 at 19:25, AnneL said:

Thank you for posting the link. However not all the performances are on this list - I have a programme for 28 December 1968, but that isn’t on there. It featured Diana Vere and Keith Martin in the principal roles and Lesley Collier was one of Swanilda’s friends (I think). My daughter says we also saw Coppelia in the early 2000s - perhaps one of the performances in that long run! 

 

Do email the ROH collections people with information of missing performances.  They seem very amenable to getting help and making corrections.

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34 minutes ago, FionaE said:

 

Do email the ROH collections people with information of missing performances.  They seem very amenable to getting help and making corrections.

 

Not sure about that. I provided evidence of an error in the database some years ago, but it wasn't corrected. And they have had a programme for adding performances according to certain criteria, so I don't think that they are unaware of missing performances.

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2 minutes ago, bridiem said:

 

Not sure about that. I provided evidence of an error in the database some years ago, but it wasn't corrected. And they have had a programme for adding performances according to certain criteria, so I don't think that they are unaware of missing performances.

 

I'd be really interested to know what those criteria are - I'd have thought having a "complete set" for a production and correcting errors would take priority over adding new ones.

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12 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

I'd be really interested to know what those criteria are - I'd have thought having a "complete set" for a production and correcting errors would take priority over adding new ones.

 

Well if you look at the right of their home page here http://www.rohcollections.org.uk/performances.aspx it lists what is now on there, i.e. the things to which they have been giving priority. Which does result in certain anomalies.

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3 minutes ago, bridiem said:

 

Well if you look at the right of their home page here http://www.rohcollections.org.uk/performances.aspx it lists what is now on there, i.e. the things to which they have been giving priority. Which does result in certain anomalies.

 

Thank you - and now I'm intrigued as to when that list was last updated: since they featured Placido Domingo at the top of it, I checked and no performance of his since 2010 has been added.

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9 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

Thank you - and now I'm intrigued as to when that list was last updated: since they featured Placido Domingo at the top of it, I checked and no performance of his since 2010 has been added.

 

It is a very strange list, I think. I'm not sure if they mean (for example) that every performance Monica Mason danced is online and there are more than 1,000 of them, or just that there are more than 1,000 of her performances online and they've chosen to highlight her name as a link. If the former, why would they single out MM to be prioritised (much as I love her)? Perhaps she was director when the database was set up? Which would seem a peculiarly daft criterion. And why MacMillan and not Ashton? Why Nureyev and not Fonteyn? etc.

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