Premiere of the production: 2 October 2020
At the heart of the plot of the Léo Delibes ballet Coppélia lies the story of a careless youth who nearly trades his lovely bride for a mechanical doll.
In the 150 years since its premiere, the show’s choreography has undergone numerous changes. In creating his version of Coppélia for the Mikhailovsky Theatre, Mikhail Messerer used elements of productions by his great predecessors in the world of classical ballet — Arthur Saint-Léon, Marius Petipa, and Alexander Gorsky, while his own sense of taste, imagination, and knowledge of tradition helped him create a show that functions as a cohesive whole.
This lively ballet, with elements of pantomime and colourful distinctive variations, but with strictly classical dancing at its core, makes for ideal family viewing.
A small town at the border of Galicia. Dr Coppélius is an eccentric clockmaker and passionate inventor of mechanical dolls. He devotes much of his time to building wind-up dolls and, they say, his study is full of them. Everyone in the town is startled at the news that a charming girl has taken up residence in Coppélius’s house, and nobody knows who she is or where she came from. The townspeople conclude that she must be Coppélius’s daughter and, thus, name her Coppélia.
Young men vie to get acquainted with her, though without success, while girls keep a jealous eye on them. However, a young man named Franz is lucky: the blue-eyed beauty not only returns a bow to him but even blows him a kiss out of the window, as a result of which Franz has a quarrel with his bride Swanhilda.
In the evening, when Coppélius is leaving the house for a stroll, he is suddenly surrounded by a group of youth, who make fun of the elderly craftsman. Coppélius shoos them away but, in the chaos, loses the key to his house. Swanhilda and her friends find the key and decide to sneak into the house to learn who the mystery girl is.
Coppélius comes back, finds the door open, and quietly enters his house hoping to catch the intruders. Franz decides to climb through the window to visit Coppélia, not knowing that Swanhilda and Coppélius are in the house already.
Having sneaked into Coppélius’s house, Swanhilda and her friends explore his wonderful study. Their curiosity knows no bounds as they look upon the myriad of dolls: a Chinese man, a Spanish woman, a knight, an astrologer, and many others. It comes as a great surprise to them when they realize that the stranger, who was of such interest to them, also happens to be a doll. Overjoyed, the girls wind all the toys up and dance. Coppélius returns, catching them red-handed, and Swanhilda is detained by him, while her friends manage to run away.
At this moment, Franz appears in the window. Swanhilda complains to Coppélius about the unfaithfulness of her fiancé. The kind craftsman feels sorry for the girl and suggests that they should play a trick on Franz and teach him a lesson.
Having given some wine to the giddy young man and making him tipsy, Coppélius introduces him to the beautiful stranger — Swanhilda disguised as the doll. Franz is confused seeing the girl walk in an awkward, angular way. When Coppélius tells him that it is a doll, the man is astonished: she is made so well.
Coppélius mysteriously claims that he can strike life into the doll... Franz does not believe this: it is enough that he has already made a blunder and fallen in love with a doll. But... what is that? The doll really does come alive. Franz becomes convinced of that when he listens to how her heart beats. His interest in the girl in rekindled, and he asks Coppélius for her hand. Now Franz’s unfaithfulness is fully evident. Swanhilda tears off the doll’s wig and makes Franz repent for his behaviour. The young man begs for her forgiveness. His repentance is so sincere, and their mutual love is so evident that Coppélius decides to reconcile the lovers. The happy couple leave the house of the dollmaker.
On the festive day, the square is filling up with people. Coppélius presents the town with a new clock he has made for the Town Hall tower. The magnificent clock appears before the admiring townspeople. By tradition, weddings are also celebrated on that day. Today, several young couples, including Swanhilda and Franz, are getting married.
Once the ceremony is over, dancing begins. Coppélius calls Swanhilda and Franz up, and having looked archly at the happy young man, the old craftsman gifts to the newlyweds a little doll as a keepsake and a token of their true love.