I don’t know how they do it, but I have to say Vienna Festival Ballet are really great.
If in the first act of their excellent production of Coppelia they seemed a bit thin on the ground, the rural village they’re in could be a very small one and I know cast-wise it’s hard to be an independent company in competition with the subsidised big boys.
But the Festival Ballet have three secret weapons here. First, a timeless and very funny story about love, youth, and age with a touch of the supernatural about a silly old man who makes mechanised life-size toys and thinks he can make himself a young wife. Second, Delibes’ truly marvellous music, and third a company of really outstanding, enthusiastic young dancers.
The first act sets the scene beautifully in a fairytale village with a burgeoning love affair between Franz and Swanhilda. But Doctor Coppelius has made a life-like mechanical doll which he puts out on a balcony to show how clever he is. Franz falls for her, thinking she is real, sneaking into his house after dark to get a sight of this great beauty. But he underestimates his lover Swanhilda, who sneaks in herself with a group of friends to get even with her rival.
In the second act the magic really takes off. The dolls are scarily lifelike while Swanilda’s courtship of the old man is hilarious, and his sinister treatment of Franz gets us firmly on the lovers’ side. The last act is quite simply a miracle of brilliant virtuoso dancing in the true classical tradition at a level many companies would give their eye teeth to attain.
I hope they come back soon.