Queensland Ballet: Coppelia

QB Coppelia photo by David KellyOriginally set in eighteenth-century Austria, Coppelia premiered in Paris in 1870. Leo Delibes composed the score.

Queensland Ballet successfully premiered this production by Greg Horsman in 2014. This is the first time I have ever seen Coppelia. From commencement to conclusion, I was captivated by every singular and combined aspect of this production.

The introductory animation by team Pixel Frame was both clever and involving. It not only provided explanation for the eventual creation of Coppelia, it highlighted the perils of the immigrant’s voyage to Australia. In this case, German immigrants coming to South Australia, where they founded the village of Hahndorf and carried on with cultural traditions.

Horsman’s close relationship with, and his in-depth knowledge of the ballet as dancer and choreographer is evident. It’s clear that he has thought through the whole story in its entirety. In this adaptation, Dr Coppelius is a real doctor who despite his odd beginnings in the village, is ultimately incorporated into the close community.

Reading through the Choreographer’s notes, it all makes tremendous artistic, cultural and historical sense. Unwaveringly, Greg Horsman as all round artisan, has pursued and realised his vision for this production. The result is wonder-filled. Wonderfully produced!

Hahndorf is actually a real-life town in South Australia. Famed for its culture and cuisine, it has retained its Germanic origins. It regularly attracts floods of tourists.

Hugh Colman’s sets are incredibly realistic. He has constructed a convincingly real little village which includes the crucial church, tavern and general store. The house wherein Dr Coppelius resides, does not look out of place.

QB Coppelia photo by David Kelly 3Life in Hahndorf (minus tons of tourists) looks ideal with a perfect balance between leisurely pursuits and Protestant work ethic. The scene with the AFL team reinforces that this is life in Australia. Clearly, the new settlers have settled in.

The iconic Australian windmill stands steady as the skies change from a perfect blue to the hues of sunset. Another iconic addition is the black crow perched on the balcony where the lifelike Coppelia first appears.

Franz (Patricio Reve) is immediately captivated by this classic beauty with her blonde ringlets and elegant, pink attire. (Dress by Noeline Hill). Swanhilde, his betrothed dims in comparison. Her peasant dress and homely hair bun cannot compete with what his eyes have just beheld. Coppelia has raised the bar.

Franz immediately commences his courtship by throwing kisses at Coppelia. One of the many comedic moments is when he appears equipped with a long ladder and strategic intent.

Meanwhile, the enraged Swanhilde (Chiara Gonzalez) and her friends seize an opportunity to explore the mysterious house where Dr Coppelius resides. Act One concludes.

Act Two is brilliantly staged. When the curtain rises, we find ourselves suddenly staring into the laboratory-like workplace of Dr Coppelius. There is so much to see…!

Like the turning of a page, Act Two continues where Act One ended. An excellent example of fluid continuity of tale! The front door opens and a handholding chain of nervous girls enter. Chaos ensues as props and prostheses unexpectedly come to life, clockwork style.

Brianna McAllen is superb as Coppelia.

Swanhilde is delighted to find that Coppelia is only a doll and reassured, wheels her out for some group mockery. All the fun turns to fear when the doctor comes home.

QB-Coppelia-photo-by-David-Kelly-2If we’d temporarily forgotten Franz, he hasn’t forgotten Coppelia. We remember the ladder when a beautiful pair of stretching, muscular legs appear silhouetted upstairs. Franz has arrived, ready to introduce himself as a potential suitor to Coppelia. Unfortunately, the doctor is in the house.

What transpires is simultaneously scary, funny and a great scientific opportunity.

The storyline in this delightful production is so strong, so dominant and so well told that the ballet, score and orchestra all merged together in my mind. Where has Coppelia been for the past decade? This production should be widely shared.

A wonderful night at the ballet. The hugest of congratulations to Greg Horsman on the creation of this mesmerising and unforgettable work. Well done to the entire creative team.

Playhouse – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Performance: Friday 7 June 2024
Season continues to 22 June 2024
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandballet.com.au

Images: Artists of the Queensland Ballet in Coppelia – photos by David Kelly

Review: Michele-Rose Boylan