• Principal Artist Patricio Reve as Franz.
    Principal Artist Patricio Reve as Franz.
  • Vito Bernasconi as Dr Coppelius.
    Vito Bernasconi as Dr Coppelius.
  • Ivan Surodeev, Alex Idaszak and Lewis Formby.
    Ivan Surodeev, Alex Idaszak and Lewis Formby.
  • Chiara Gonzalez as Lisa and Patricio Reve as Franz.
    Chiara Gonzalez as Lisa and Patricio Reve as Franz.
Playhouse, QPAC
Reviewed June 7
It is 10 years since the Queensland Ballet (QB) premiere of this production of Coppélia, devised and choreographed by Assistant Artistic Director Greg Horsman. While maintaining the ballet’s charm, his interpretation infuses the 19th century classic with a fresh relevance and a distinctly Australian flavour that still captivates.
Horsman has located the ballet in the 1880s German settlement town of Hahndorf, South Australia, cleverly adding a prologue that gives a back story to the otherwise rather implausible Coppélia plot. Effectively conveyed by a screen-projected representation (PixelFrame) using both historical and drawn images evoking the19th century, the premature death of Dr Coppélius’s young daughter, Coppélia, on their migration from Germany to Hahndorf, becomes the reason the grief-stricken doctor subsequently makes a life-like doll in her image. 
A short scene following explores Coppélius’s arrival in Hahndorf and his epiphanic decision to “recreate” his dead daughter. This makes the first act quite long, and initially rather short on dancing as Horsman fleshes out the original characters and many more of his devising. 
Different nationalities, typifying early migration trends in Australia, include the McTaggarts, Mr and Mrs Angus and son Henry, Pastor Kluge and his wife, together with Swanilda and her parents (the Hoffmans) and Franz’s parents the Smits, and his three brothers. These add dramatic detail, but also a modicum of confusion initially, sorting out who’s who. Acts 2 and 3 take you into more familiar territory, however, with the second act tightly drawn comedically by the main protagonists, Coppélius, Swanilda and Franz. 
Horsman has kept much of the traditional Petipa choreography, deviating most noticeably in Act 1 where the Mazurka accompanies some deft (and not so deft) ball throwing manoeuvres as a team of footballers arrive in the village – the unintentional loss of the ball into the orchestra pit only added more frisson to the performance. Mixing it up further, a German knee-slapping dance or Schuhplattler is performed to the slow movement of the Czardas. 
This is a beautiful-looking ballet where the exquisitely detailed and brightly coloured period costumes by Noelene Hill pop against the muted Australian outback colours of Hugh Colman’s set design, which frames the brilliant blue cyclorama sky, lit by Jon Buswell.
The company was in fine form technically, but more importantly in telling the story. (Some dancers, however, should remember to include the balcony in their projected gaze, as those patrons also like to feel included and occasionally this one didn’t.)
Chiara Gonzalez gave a convincing performance as the vivacious, feisty Swanilda, conquering the many technical challenges of the role, including the long adagio promenade of the Act 3 pas de deux.
She was well-matched by Patricio Revé as the flirtatious Franz, together making an engaging couple. Possessing a charming stage persona, Revé is also technically assured with spongy ballon and needle-sharp, impeccably controlled turns.
Vito Bernasconi as Dr Coppélius captured much of the nuance of Horsman’s freshly drawn and more credible character. There was grief along with the cantankerous, and much less of the wretched fool of the original story. 
Act 3 sees more dramatic development and resolution than is usual, with the divertissements repurposed to this end. The usual Dawn solo is now a delightful duet where Mary McTaggart (a radiant Laura Tosar), entices a reluctant Henry Angus (Alexander Idaszak). Georgia Swan as Mrs Kluge, in another reworking of the drama, performed the Prayer solo with beautiful control. As her daughter, the bespectacled and rather nerdy Liesl Kluge, Isabella Swietlicki, also impressed.
Ten years ago, it was an unusual thrill to have the Camerata of St Johns play live for the season. Today, rather than the exception, live music is the rule. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra under QB Music Director Nigel Gaynor gave a scintillating performance of the Delibes score. It is still a wonderful treat to have live music and not to be taken for granted.
'Coppelia' runs to June 22.





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