It was a noble tradition with more than 30 years that had been tempered: the Ballets of Monte-Carlo reserved the Christmas dates between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to summon the European dance environment and release new works. Well, in transit between 2019 and 2020 Jean Christophe Jersey, artistic director of the Monegasque group since 1993, proposes a new Coppélia under the appeal anagrammatic of Coppél-i.A., which adds to the traditional title: Artificial intelligence, which is the real reason that runs through the futuristic premiere piece. He had been wearing this title for several years, and it could not be more appropriate: in 2020 we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Coppélia Original in his debut at the old Paris Opera Le Peletier, with the beautiful score, we can say that today a great classic of the genre, by Léo Delibes, the choreography of Arthur Saint-Léon and starring a very young Milanese woman of miserable life: Giuseppina Bozzacchi (Milan, 1853 – Paris, 1870); He was born and died on November 23 with only 17 years and just five months after his success, in the middle of the German site of Paris and a victim of smallpox.
The new one Coppél-i.A. which will be on the bill until next day 5 in the Great Hall of the Grimaldi Forum, posed several challenges to Maillot, who turns 60 in this 2020 and who had previously addressed own versions of Romeo and Juliet (nineteen ninety six); Swan Lake (2011); Sleeping Beauty (2001); Nutcracker (2013) or Cinderella (1999). Strictly speaking, they only resist him from the great canonical repertoire of academic ballet that would have reached our days Giselle Y La Fille mal Gardée, which in themselves are also powerful formal challenges. Will he ever do them? At the moment he was attracted to this story by Hoffmann to which Freud dedicated a biased and suggestive essay: The sinister, still in latent professional and literary use.
This new adventure about the argument that is based on the story The sand man (Der Sandmann) by ETA Hoffmann transformed into a ballet booklet by the archivist of the Opera Charles Nuitter and Saint-Léon himself, put Maillot in the position to surround himself with a team of his total confidence: the musician Bertrand Maillot for the additions to the score original and very current and media Aimée Moreni (Paris, 1990) for the scenery and costumes (recognized for her collaborations with Dior, Hermès and Chloé, and oblivious to the world of ballet except for a previous piece with Maillot in 2018). For the new libretto, Maillot himself used his pen next to the playwright of Geoffroy Staquet. The result is monumental in its scale and in its quite justified claims to separate from the original, but without losing sight of it either in the letter or in the mood. The suggested additional theme is no stranger to the work itself or Hoffmann or the ballet Coppélia: the imitative duplicity of artificial intelligence, its ethical conflicts and the distant but not free relationship with the vernacular and mysterious world of automatons, that neo-alchemy that runs throughout the eighteenth and part of the nineteenth century for the Enlightenment.
In many narrative aspects Maillot follows the original, and introduces with some prominence the character of the ambitious to the caricatural mother of Swanilda, the girl who inspires the romance of the piece; maintains the cabalistic and tormented tone of Doctor Coppelius, in this case closer to the stereotype of the mad and obsessive scientist. Young Franz is a boy in love almost always a victim of circumstances. The dancers Katrin Schrader as the artificial doll, Alessandra Tognolini as Swanilda, Joayong An as Coppelius and Francesco Mariottini as Franz, offered solvent and dynamic performances. Alessio Scognamiglio was very applauded as Swanilda’s confidant.
Other scenes saved are the arrival at the workshop-laboratory of Coppelius of the friends to be surprised and driven away; Swanilda replaces the doll and Coppelius does not see the deception and the happy ending in wedding of the lovers to which the tragic solitude of Coppelius is added, with the cuita of his inanimate robot doll, or perhaps, independent.
The first act is basically in black and white, with a set designed to scale the huge stage of the Forum, where the eye is formed (basic symbol of the piece, because in fact the original ballet is subtitled La Fille aux yeux d’émail (The girl with the enamel eyes) and where the light plays an enveloping and lyrical role. The costumes at one time evoke those of the Oskar Schlemmer Triadic Ballet and others become minimalist, like fanciful second iridescent skins. There was no live orchestra but the mixing of the new sounds is offered with a tailored recording where the addition of the electronic piano and the voice of a singer was perceived.
We can and should ask ourselves: what about Hoffmann fascinated and endured in teachers of literary scientific anticipation like H. P. Lovecraft and Stanislav Lem? And even in rare unclassifiable avis like Karel Capek (who reinvented and categorized the term ‘robot’) or María Luisa Bombal (who read the spooky Hoffmannian stories as a child)? It is not closely the romantic vein always lends and willing to flow but its dark and overwhelming part, where plausible justifications end and the mystery of art begins: that is in the ballet itself and in the adaptation it is maillot at times it is felt. As he suggests and almost accurately indicates the modern subtitle of Artificial intelligence, everything in this new Coppélia it’s cold and distant from shapes to colors and fabrics, and the few moments of warmth are given by the dance, courageous and delivered by the staff. The always circumspect audience of the principality stood up and shouted continuous braves among waves of loud festive applause.