Delibes: Coppélia [Ballet of the Opera National of Paris] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: November 15, 2011
- List Price: $39.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Coppélia, originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon, using a score by Leo Delibes, premiered in Paris in 1870. The story is taken from one of the fanciful tales of German author, E.T.A. Hoffmann. At its center is the Coppélius who has lost the love of his life, a ballerina. Spalanzani, an inventor, convinces Coppélius that he can animate his doll-creation with the appropriate human soul. This turns out to be the village girl Swanilda who narrowly escapes this dubious fate as Frantz, her boyfriend, snatches her from Spalanzani’s workshop before it goes up in smoke. This well-loved ballet has seen a number of later revisions, and this BD presents the Patrice Bart take on Coppélia, which brings it closer to the original intent of Hoffman’s story. Additional music from Delibes’ operas, Lakme and Le Roi l’a dit, fill out the gorgeous score, performed by the Orchestre Colonne, under the knowing baton of Koen Kessels. Bart, a former premier danseur, has fashioned choreography that is eminently danceable and displays the talents of the principals, Dorothee Gilbert (Swanilda), Mathias Heymann (Frantz), and Jose Martinez (Coppélius). Drop dead gorgeous costumes offset a rather spare set and both sound and video recording is outstanding.
Under the knowing direction of Nicholas Joel, the capture of the ebb and flow of the numerous dance sequences borders on the fabulous, with a few minor missed steps and entries. The corps de ballet is well treated by the videographers. There is a significant amount of panoramic shots which gives viewers a real sense of the theater. Closeups show excellent detail. Just take a look at the “automaton” sequence in Act II. Ballet is, by definition, a kinetic art form and the camera work makes this point in spades.
The sound track in the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 version does a good job of keeping the orchestra in the pit, where it belongs, but allows the orchestral detail and heft to be clearly heard. This is mostly an upfront presentation with the surround channels being primarily used for ambience.
A 30-minute featurette on the back story, “The Mystery of Coppélia,” authored by Reiner Moritz, is an entertaining and fascinating view of the ballet. Well worth watching.
The Definitive Word
Ballet lovers, you can thank Opus Arte for allowing you to see Patrice Bart’s balletic swan song as he retired this year. Before you think that this just another Coppélia, Bart makes you think again. The traditional story of the automated doll that fools a naïve young man into loving her is entirely recast. Purists might have a problem with revisionist ballet. When the total piece is this well conceived and danced, such concerns should be put aside. This is an hour and a half of delight, wonderment and terrific dancing. Supported by top drawer videography, and being the sole BD entry of this work in any version, this is one that I will be returning to with anticipation and pleasure.
Additional Screen Captures