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The Romantic Era

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Christine Shawl

on 6 October 2015

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Transcript of The Romantic Era

The Age of Romanticism
What is Romanticism?
An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century
characterized by:
a heightened interest in nature
emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination
departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism
rebellion against established social rules and conventions


How does Romanticism change Ballet?
Style & Innovations
Style:
Narrative Dance
Stories told by movement alone
Utilizing gestures and pantomime established by Ballet d’Action
Theater:
Gas lighting incorporated in 1822
Lowering of the curtain between acts
Choreographers, Ballets & Dancers
The Romantic Era 1820-1870
"Romanticism valued imagination and emotion over rationality"  
Desire to Create the Illusion of Weightlessness
Female Dancers as Ethereal Creatures
Pointe
Technique
Wilis - the spirits/ghosts of maidens who died tragically before their wedding day. Their ghostly forms rise from the grave at night, killing all men who dare to cross their path. At dawn, the wilis return to their graves, chased away by the rising sun.

Sylphs - defined in western culture as “airy spirits”, light as air, slender and gossamer, and have the faintest and finest little fairy wings of any of the ethereal creatures. In ballet, sylphs are typically otherworldly-looking fairies, donning floaty white costumes and tempting the lead men with their dainty steps and shimmering movements. They are elusive creatures and almost impossible to hold on to, as leading ballet dancers quickly find out.
Marie Taglioni in La Sylphide
Taglioni's Pointe Shoes
Pierina Legnani
Anna Pavlova
The Development of the Tutu
Cause & Effect for Technique & Style Development
Male dancers become less prominent
First Tutu consisted of a tight-fitting bodice that left the neck and shoulders bare, and a light, delicate, translucent, bell-shaped skirt. Falling halfway between the knees and ankles, it was made of layers of stiffened tarlatan, a highly starched, sheer cotton muslin that gave the illusion of fullness without being weighty.
Marie Taglioni in La Sylphide
CHOREOGRAPHERS
La Sylphide
Filippo Taglioni - 1832
Auguste Bournonville - 1836
Marie Taglioni
Perrot Giselle, Pas de Quatre
Filippo Taglioni

Marie Taglioni
Marie Taglioni
BALLETS
DANCERS
Filippo Taglioni
1777-1871
Auguste Bournonville
1805-1879
Jean Coralli
1779-1854
Jules Perrot
1810-1892
Lucille Grahn
1819-1907
Carlotta Grisi
1819-1899
Fanny Elssler
1810-1884
Fanny Cerrito
1817-1909
Marie Taglioni
1804-1884
Arthur Saint-Leon
1821-1870
Coppelia
1870
Le Diable Boiteux
1836
Pas de Quatre
1845
La Sylphide
1832/1836
Giselle
1841/1850
Italian ballet master and choreographer most famous for the ballet, "La Sylphide" (1832) that he created for his daughter Marie Taglioni.
"La Sylphide" is considered to be the first Romantic Ballet and is one of the oldest ballets still danced today.
The first ballet where dancing en pointe was aesthetic, and Taglioni's costume, a white skirt raised to her calves, and bare shoulders and arms, set a new fashion for women dancers.


Danish ballet master and choreographer. His mother trained with Noverre, Bournonville trained with Auguste Vestris, however he initiated a unique style in ballet known as the Bournonville School.

He created more than 50 ballets for the Royal Danish Ballet admired for their exuberance, lightness, and beauty. He created a style which, although influenced from the Paris ballet, is entirely his own.

Bournonville's best-known ballets are La Sylphide (1836), Napoli (1842), and A Folk Tale (1854).

French dancer and choreographer and later held the esteemed post of First Ballet master of the Paris Opera Ballet. He is best known for the creation of the Romantic ballet Giselle (1841) which he choreographed in tandem with another French dancer, Jules Perrot.
Other notable ballets:
“Le Diable Boiteux”, 1836
“La Peri”, 1843

French dancer and choreographer who later became Ballet master of the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. He created some of the most famous ballets of the 19th century including "Pas de Quatre" (1845), "La Esmeralda" (1844), "Ondine" (1843), and "Giselle" (1841) with Jean Coralli.



French born dancer and choreographer was the ballet master of St. Petersburg's Imperial Ballet from 1859 until 1869 and is famous for creating the choreography of the ballet Coppélia.
Father had been a dancer of the Paris Opéra Ballet. Saint-Léon studied violin with Joseph Mayseder and Niccolò Paganini. At the same time, he studied ballet so he could perform both as violinist and dancer. Coppelia is considered the last Romantic Ballet.

The ballet-going public knows the Romantic ballet "La Sylphide" as being choreographed by the Danish ballet master August Bournonville. That is indeed the La Sylphide audiences are most familiar with today but was not the original version given in 1832.

The original production of "La Sylphide" was first presented by the Paris Opera Ballet in 1832, and was choreographed by Filippo Taglioni himself to the music of Jean-Madeliene Schnietzhoeffer, with libretto by Adolphe Nourrit after a story by Charles Nodier. The leading roles were danced by Marie Taglioni and Joseph Mazilier.

Bournonville originally intended to stage the 1832 version in Denmark, but the Paris Opéra demanded to high a price for the orchestral parts of Schnietzhoeffer's score. In light of this, Bournonville decided to stage his own version of La Sylphide on the same scenario, with a new score by Herman Severin Løvenskiold. The production premiered in 1836 with the prodigy Lucile Grahn and Bournonville in the principal roles. Due to the strong tradition of the Royal Danish Ballet this version is still being performed in Denmark to this day, and has since been staged throughout the world.

Description:
The technique features very basic use of arms, usually keeping them in preparatory position. Perpetual use of simple diagonal epaulements. Vocabulary for men is essentially varied forms of beats. Pirouettes are taken with a low developpe into seconde, then from seconde, for outside turns, and with a low developpe into 4th for inside turns. Also common are the dramatic use of fifth position bras en bas (preparatory position) for beginning and ending movements. The style has many recognizable poses such as pointe derriere one arm in 5th, the other a la taille (at the waist), with a touch of epaulement.

Important characteristics:
The graceful épaulement
The head is "lowered" to give the impression of kindness, not "raised" with the expression of being proud.
The eyes follow the moving leg.
The arms are placed a tiny bit in front of the body both à la ligne, à la seconde, à la couronne etc. This is also anatomically correct.
The feet are also low - sur le cou de pied - as a wrapped position, where the heel is on the side of the standing leg, the toe behind the standing leg.
In Bournonville style you turn the pirouettes with low legs. In his time the tutus were long. In the inside pirouette you lift the leg à la seconde and then place the toe just under the knee.
The musical phrasing is allegro, and utilizes simple, quiet arm movements.
Bournonville dance has to be a stream of movements where you do not notice the effort even in the most difficult combinations of steps.


Perrot left the Paris Opéra in 1835 to tour European cities such as London, Milan, Vienna and Naples, where he met and noticed the talent of Carlotta Grisi. He coached her and presented her to the world as the next great ballerina in an 1836 performance in London with himself as her partner. In that same year Perrot began to experiment with the art of choreography.

For the famous "Pas de Quatre" ballet he not only negotiated the difficult task of persuading the four leading ballerinas of the day to appear on stage together, but also created a choreographic masterpiece.

Nearly every ballet Perrot ever created was set to the music of Cesare Pugni.

Edgar Degas often painted Jules Perrot rehearsing with the dancers at Paris Opera.

Perrot was engaged as a dancer in St. Petersburg for the Imperial Ballet and later was appointed Ballet master there. He remained with the Imperial Russian Ballet until 1858.
Saint-Leon started to tour across Europe dancing in Germany, Italy, England, obtaining a lot of success. In particular, the London audience, who did not like at that time to see men dancing on stage, liked him very much. He was much appreciated for his tours and his jumps. He was able to gain applause in every theatre he danced, and this was not very common in the Romantic Era, where the only star on stage was the Ballerina dancing en pointe.

When in Vienna, Saint-Léon could dance for the first time with Fanny Cerrito and from that very moment the two of them became almost indivisible, till they got married in 1845.

After touring across Europe, he was invited to succeed Jules Perrot in 1859 as Ballet master to the Imperial Russian Ballet, in St. Petersburg, Russia, a post which he held until 1869 (he was succeeded by Marius Petipa).

Although Saint-Léon choreographed many ballets, the only one that survived complete is Coppélia (1870).
He was known for incorporating national dances in his ballets which was criticized in his day but became a mainstay for Russian ballet moving forward.


Italian/Swedish ballet dancer of the Romantic ballet era, a central figure in the history of European dance. Most well known for her debut performance of "La Sylphide" created for her by her father, Filippo Taglioni. First to dance en pointe for a long period of time. First to shorten skirt to calf-length to shoe off pointe work.
Italian ballet dancer who trained at the ballet school of Teatro alla Scala in Milan and later with dancer/ballet master Jules Perrot. She was especially noted for the role of Giselle which Perrot created for her.
At her 1836 debut in London Grisi performed with the accomplished danseur Jules Perrot. Through Perrot's contacts, the pair worked in Paris, London, Vienna, Munich, and Milan where she sang and danced.

Her greatest role however was that of Giselle. It caused a sensation and inspired its reviewers to proclaim Giselle to be the greatest ballet of its time and a triumphant successor to the Romantic masterwork La Sylphide. As such, it immediately established Grisi as a star in her very first full-length ballet in Paris.

In 1850, she joined Perrot in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he had been appointed balletmaster, and she danced Giselle at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre. The first Giselle in Russia had been danced by Fanny Elssler, and so the initial reaction to Grisi's interpretation of the role was not enthusiastic. However, over time the Russians appreciated her talents. She was Prima Ballerina of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg from 1850 to 1853.

One of the Giselle's creators, Théophile Gautier, described her dancing as having a happy and infectious gaiety.

Austrian ballerina of the Romantic Period. She was brought to Paris Opera in 1834 to rival Taglioni. However, Elssler and Taglioni were exceptionally different dancers. Taglioni was known as a danseur ballonné, represented by the lightness of her leaps and jumps. Elssler, on the other hand, distinguished her dancing with the precision in which she performed small, quick steps. Elssler's type of dancing was known as danse tacquetée.

She refused a part in Perrot's "Pas de Quatre".



It was in her performance of the Spanish La Cachucha from the 1836 Coralli ballet "Le Diable Boiteux" that Elssler outshone all rivals. Elssler was not Spanish, but her performances of Cachucha were filled with fire and sensual life. Elssler did not only possess technical gifts, her ability to perform dramatically was exceptional. Her performances of the great Romantic ballets portrayed heightened aspects of their former characters. This earned Elssler a place among the most talented and notable ballerinas of the Romantic ballet period.

Italian ballet dancer and choreographer. She was a ballerina noted for the brilliance, strength, and vivacity of her dancing. She was also one of few women in the 19th century to be recognized for her talent as a choreographer.

She studied under Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Léon, the latter of whom was her husband from 1845–51. While in Milan, Fanny began her collaboration with Jules Perrot, during which they choreographed "Ondine", "ou La naïade" (1843) as well as "Alma" (1842) and "Lalla Rookh" (1846). Later in 1845, her choreographic talent became recognized after presenting her own ballet, "Rosida". For nine seasons, from 1840 to 1848, Cerrito became a very well-respected dancer at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Danish ballerina and choreographer, one of the four dancers honored in the famous ballet "Pas de quatre" (1845). Born in Copenhagen, she was trained under the Danish choreographer August Bournonville, who created his version (1836) of "La Sylphide" for her. She left Denmark in 1839 and danced internationally until 1856. Later ballet mistress of the Munich Opera, she choreographed ballets for many operas, including the German composer Richard Wagner`s "Tannhuser."

1832 Choreography by Filippo Taglioni for his daughter Marie Taglioni to star in
Music by Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer
Debut by The Paris Opera Ballet
Established the Romantic Style Ballet
1836 Choreography by Auguste Bournonville for Lucile Grahn to star in
Music by Herman Severin Løvenskiold
Debut by The Royal Danish Ballet
This is the version that is most often reconstructed
Storyline:
Act I -
In the hall of a Scottish farmhouse, James, a young Scotsman, sleeps in a chair by the fireside. A sylph, gazes lovingly upon him and dances about his chair. She kisses him and then vanishes when he suddenly wakes. James rouses his friend Gurn from sleep, and questions him about the sylph. Gurn denies having seen such a creature and reminds James that he is shortly to be married. James dismisses the incident and promises to forget it.

James' bride-to-be, Effie, arrives with her mother and bridesmaids. James dutifully kisses her, but is startled by a shadow in the corner. Thinking his sylph has returned, he rushes over, only to find the witch, Old Madge, kneeling at the hearth to warm herself. James is furious with the disappointment.

Effie and her friends beg Old Madge to tell their fortunes, and the witch complies. She gleefully informs Effie that James loves someone else and she will be united with Gurn. James is furious. He forces Madge from the hearth and throws her out of the house. Effie is delighted that James would tangle with a witch for her sake.


La Sylphide is a romantic story about the insatiable human desire to find true love. When a forest fairy uses her magical gifts to attract a young Scotsman on the eve of his nuptials, the story unravels in a forest of uncertainty about whether love or longing is worthy of self-sacrifice.
Act II - In a fog shrouded part of the forest, Madge and her companion witches dance grotesquely about a cauldron. The revellers add all sorts of filthy ingredients to the brew. When the contents glow, Madge reaches into the cauldron and pulls a diaphanous, magic scarf from its depths. The cauldron then sinks, the witches scatter, the fog lifts, and a lovely glade is revealed.

James enters with the sylph who shows him her charming, woodland realm. She brings him berries and water for refreshment but avoids his embrace. To cheer him, she summons her ethereal sisters who shyly enter and perform their airy dances. The young Scotsman is delighted and joins the divertissement before all flee for another part of the forest.

Meanwhile, the wedding guests have been searching the woodland for James. They enter the glade. Gurn finds his hat, but Madge convinces him to say nothing. Effie enters, weary with wandering about the forest. Madge urges Gurn to propose. He does and Effie accepts his proposal.


Characters:
The Sylph - ethereal creature/forest fairy
James - Scottish Farmer
Effie - James' fiancee
Gurn - James' best friend
Old Madge - Witch/Fortune Teller

Effie and her bridesmaids hurry upstairs to prepare for the wedding, and James is left alone in the room. As he stares out the window, the sylph materializes before him and confesses her love. She weeps at his apparent indifference. James resists at first, but, captivated by her ethereal beauty, capitulates and kisses her tenderly. Gurn, who spies the moment from the shadows, scampers off to tell Effie what has happened.

When the distressed Effie and her friends enter after hearing Gurn's report, the sylph disappears. The guests assume Gurn is simply jealous and laugh at him. Everyone dances. The sylph enters during the midst of the revelry and attempts to distract James.

As the bridal procession forms, James stands apart and gazes upon the ring he is to place on Effie's finger. The Sylph snatches the ring, places it on her own finger, and, smiling enticingly, rushes into the forest. James hurries after her in ardent pursuit. The guests are bewildered with James' sudden departure. Effie is heartbroken. She falls into her mother's arms sobbing inconsolably.

When they all have left, James enters the glade. Madge meets him, and tosses him the magic scarf. She tells the young farmer the scarf will bind the sylph to him so she cannot fly away. She instructs him to wind the scarf about the sylph's shoulders and arms for full effect. James is ecstatic. When the sylph returns and sees the scarf, she allows James to place it around her trembling form.

As James embraces the sylph passionately, her wings fall off, she shudders, and dies in James' arms. Sorrowfully, her sisters enter and lift her lifeless form. Suddenly, a joyful wedding procession led by Effie and Gurn crosses the glade. James is stunned. Madge directs his gaze heavenward; he sees the sylph borne aloft by her sisters. James collapses. Madge exults over his lifeless body. Evil has triumphed.


1841 Choreographed by Jules Perrot with Jean Coralli for Carlotta Grisi and Lucien Petipa to star in
Music by Adolphe Adam
Debut by The Paris Opera
1850 Revival choreographed by Marius Petipa
Used same music by Adolphe Adam
Debut by The Imperial Russian Ballet
This is the version most often reconstructed
Storyline:
Act I -
Set in the Rhineland of the Middle Ages. A village is celebrating the grape harvest. Duke Albrecht of Silesia, a young nobleman, is madly in love with the shy and beautiful village girl, Giselle. Though he is already betrothed to Bathilde, the princess of Courtland, he disguises himself as a humble villager named 'Loys' in order to woo Giselle, who knows nothing of his true identity and happily returns his affections.

Hilarion, a coarse-mannered gamekeeper, is also in love with Giselle and attempts to convince her that 'Loys' is untrustworthy, but Giselle ignores all warnings. Giselle's mother Berthe is very protective of her daughter, as Giselle has a weak heart that leaves her in delicate health. Fearing that a romantic relationship with 'Loys' would cause Giselle potentially harmful stress, Berthe attempts to keep her away from him.

A hunting party of noblemen arrives at the village, and Albrecht quickly escapes before he is recognized by Bathilde and her father, who are in attendance. The villagers welcome the party, offer them refreshments, and perform several dances in celebration of the harvest. Bathilde is charmed with Giselle's sweet and demure nature, not knowing of her fiance's relationship with her. Giselle is honored when the beautiful stranger offers her a necklace as a gift. Hilarion halts the festivities by presenting Giselle with Albrecht's sword, proving the Duke's true identity. All present are shocked by the revelation, but none more than Giselle, who becomes inconsolable when faced with her lover's deception. Knowing now that they can never be together, Giselle flies into a tragic fit of grief, causing her weak heart to give out at last. She dies in Albrecht's arms.


Giselle is a haunting and poetic story about a young peasant girl, Giselle, and quickly escalates into a complex story of love, heartbreak, madness and forgiveness that proves love can triumph over betrayal and even death.
Act II -
A moonlit glade near Giselle's grave. Hilarion mourns at Giselle's headstone, but is frightened away by the arrival of the Wilis, the spirits of women betrayed by their lovers and who died before their weddings. The Wilis, led by their merciless queen, Myrtha, haunt the forest at night to seek revenge on any man they encounter, forcing their victims to dance until they die of exhaustion.

Myrtha and the Wilis rouse Giselle's spirit from her grave and induct her into their clan, before disappearing into the forest. Albrecht arrives to lay flowers on Giselle's grave, and he weeps with guilt over her death. Giselle's spirit appears, and Albrecht begs for her forgiveness. Giselle, her love undiminished, gently forgives him. She disappears to join the rest of the Wilis, and Albrecht desperately follows her.

Meanwhile, the Wilis have cornered Hilarion. They use their magic to force him to dance until he is nearly dead, and then drown him in a nearby lake. They then turn on Albrecht, sentencing him to death as well. He pleads to Myrtha for his life, but she coldly refuses. Giselle's pleas are also overlooked, and Albrecht is forced to dance until sunrise. However, the power of Giselle's love counters the Wilis' magic and spares his life. The other spirits return to their graves at daybreak, but Giselle has broken through the feelings of hatred and vengeance that control the Wilis, and is thus released from their powers. She returns to her grave to rest in peace, leaving Albrecht sorrowing and alone.

Characters:
Giselle
Prince Albrect (Loys)
Hilarion
Bathilde (fiance)
Berthe (Giselle's mother)

Choreography by Jules Perrot
Danced by Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito and Lucile Grahn
Music by Cesare Pugni
Nearly one hundred years later, in 1941, the Ballet was restaged by choreographer Anton Dolin. The dancers he used were, in order of appearance: Nathalie Krassovska as Lucile Grahn, Mia Slavenska as Carlotta Grisi, Alexandra Danilova as Fanny Cerrito, and Alicia Markova as Marie Taglioni. Since then many ballet companies and dancers have performed the piece.

Pas de Quatre is a ballet divertissement choreographed by Jules Perrot in 1845, featuring the greatest ballerinas of the Romantic Era.
On the night it premiered in London, Pas de Quatre, caused a sensation with the critics and the public alike. The reason for this was that it brought together, on one stage, the four greatest ballerinas of the time. The ballerinas were, in order of appearance, Lucile Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito, and Marie Taglioni. The order of appearance was done by age, from youngest to oldest, to quelch further confrontations between them. The original cast of Pas de Quatre only danced four performances together.

The fifth great Romantic ballerina of the time, Fanny Elssler, was invited to take part in the gala event but declined to do so; the young Lucile Grahn accepted without hesitation.

Pas de Quatre captured the essence of the Romantic style as the ballerinas danced with demure lightness, delicacy, and poise. The steps demand that each area of classical ballet technique is executed. These areas include adagio movements, petite allegro, grand allegro, fast footwork, graceful changes of position, and the elegant and fluid arm movements that have become a signature element of Pas de Quatre. Each ballerina has an individual variation, which are performed in succession between an opening and finale that are danced by all the ballerinas together. These variations were choreographed for the ballerina premiering in each role, and were designed to display the best features of each.

Marie
Taglioni
Carlotta Grisi
Fanny Cerrito
Lucile Grahn
Coppélia is a comic ballet originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to the music of Léo Delibes, with libretto by Charles Nuitter. Nuitter's libretto was based upon two stories by ETA Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman), and Die Puppe (The Doll). Modern-day productions are traditionally derived from the revivals staged by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg in the late 19th century.
16-year-old Giuseppina Bozzacchi originated the principal role of Swanhilde. Its first flush of success was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris – which also led to the early death of Giuseppina Bozzacchi, on her 17th birthday. When the Paris Opéra closed for the duration of the Franco-Prussian War. The Opéra had stopped paying salaries, and Giuseppina, weakened by lack of food, became ill. She contracted smallpox and fever, and died on the morning of her 17th birthday.
Act I

Dr. Coppélius is an eccentric toymaker. He has built a life-sized doll, Coppélia, and daydreams of her coming to life. Franz, a young villager betrothed to Swanilda, is unaware that Coppélia, who sits at Dr. Coppélius’ window, is only a doll and finds himself attracted to her beauty.

In the village square, celebrations are underway as the burgomaster presents a new bell to mark the following day’s harvest festival, when Franz and Swanilda will tie the knot. The couple bicker and quarrel, but Swanilda shakes an ear of corn to test Franz’s faithfulness, and the couple make up by the evening. Following a run-in with some mischievous youths on his way out, Dr. Coppélius drops the key to his house. Swanilda and her girlfriends pick it up and decide to venture in to meet Coppélia.
Le Diable Boiteux (The Lame Devil or The Devil on Two Sticks) is a ballet by Jean Coralli with music by Casimir Gide. Loosely based on the novel of Alain Rene Lesage , this ballet is the first great success of Coralli who had previously mainly reconstructed other ballets .

In 1843, the ballet was revived at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

Le Diable Boiteux tells the story of a Spanish student, Cléophas, who helps a demon to escape from a bottle and is rewarded by an introduction to three beautiful women, the dancer Florinda, the rich woman Dorotea, and the penniless Paquita. His attempts to pursue the first two are thwarted by other admirers and he also loses his money gambling. Finally he realizes it is Paquita he loves, and with a purse of gold given to them by Florinda they decide to marry. The ballet became famous for La Cachucha which Fanny Elssler danced as the character Florinda. Based on a traditional Spanish rhythm, this dance is characterized by intricate stamping and tapping footwork, coquettish glances, and a supple, swaying torso. It became the most talked-about ballet in Paris.
Giselle
Jules Perrot/Jean Coralli - 1841
Marius Petipa - 1850
Carlotta Grisi
Pas de Quatre - 1845
Jules Perrot
Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi,
Fanny Cerrito, Lucile Grahn
Le Diable Boiteux - 1836
Jean Coralli
Fanny Elssler
Coppelia - 1870
Arthur Saint-Léon
Giuseppina Bozzacchi
La Sylphide
Pas de Quatre
Carlotta Grisi
Giselle
Pas de Quatre
Fanny Elssler
Le Diable Boiteux
Fanny Cerrito
Pas de Quatre
Lucile Grahn
Pas de Quatre
Coralli Le Diable Boiteux, Giselle
Saint-Leon Coppelia
Taglioni La Sylphide (1832)
Bounonville La Sylphide (1836)
Jules Perrot

Carlotta Grisi
Jean Coralli

Fanny Elssler
Due to the interest in nature in the Romantic Era
Choreographers to the ballerinas they created a ballet for
Choreographers and the Ballets they created
Ballerinas and the Ballets they were famous for/had choreographed for them
All the information in one place
Coppélia is one of the most frequently performed and well-loved comic ballets. It was first choreographed at the end of the Romantic era and is considered to be a precursor to the “Classical era” (think Petipa) which then followed.

As George Balanchine put it, “Just as Giselle is ballet’s great tragedy, so Coppélia is its great comedy.” The ballet deviates from most Romantic ballets, which featured ethereal figures like sylphs and wilis, long tulle dresses for costumes, and tragic endings. In contrast, Coppélia featured human characters (that is, apart from Dr. Coppélius’s dolls), and ended with the central characters, Swanilda and Franz, in blissful matrimony.


In early productions of Coppélia, women in disguise would play the role of Franz, a tradition that continued at the Paris Opera until the 50s. For this reason, music had not been written for a male variation and there was no Act III pas de deux, which would only be incorporated once the score was rearranged for Marius Petipa’s production in 1884. Incidentally, Petipa’s production would mark the start of a trend towards a conclusive Grand Pas de Deux (adagio, male and female variations plus a coda), as seen in most classical ballets that followed.
Characters:
Dr. Coppéllius (toymaker)
Coppélia (
Doll with Enamal Eyes
)
Swanilda (village girl, Franz's fianceé)
Franz (village boy, Swanilda's fianceé)

Act II

Entering Dr. Coppélius’s house, Swanilda and her friends find out that Coppélia is nothing but one of the mysterious toymaker’s creations. Dr. Coppélius soon returns and drives out all the intruders, but Swanilda remains trapped. She sees Franz climb in through the window, hoping to meet Coppélia too. But he is intercepted by Dr. Coppélius and is made to drink till he passes out.

Dr Coppélius takes the opportunity to cast a spell, seeking to give life to Coppélia by transferring Franz’s life force to the doll. He is overjoyed when she comes to life, not knowing that Swanilda – who has been following all his actions – has taken her place. Franz regains his consciousness, and soon all is revealed. Swanilda forgives Franz and they run out, leaving the dismayed Dr. Coppélius alone with his toys.
Act III

The villagers gather to celebrate the harvest, as well as the wedding of Swanilda and Franz. Dr. Coppélius is upset and bitter, and threatens to take revenge for the intrusion to his home, but he is pacified by the burgomaster who gives him a purse of gold. The festivities continue into the night, with the “Dance of the Hours” and the wedding Pas de Deux.
Full transcript