Copious love for Les Grands Ballet’s Coppélia

Pictured is the set design for the Lord’s castle, the final act of Coppélia. Courtesy of Ballet de Shanghai.

This marks the Shanghai Ballet’s first performance in Montreal, witness the beauty of Coppélia before Feb. 21.

The conductor’s baton dances above the heads of audience members and a musical overture rises and resonates before the red curtain ascends. The audience is soon to be seduced into an experience that abounds with floating, graceful tulle and the soft tapping of pointe shoes on a wide, open stage.

ZHONG Min plays Doctor Coppélius, who attempts to bring the doll Coppélia to life. Courtesy of Ballet de Shanghai.

Coppélia—a ballet written by Charles Nuitter and Arthur Saint-Léon, based off of two stories by E.T A. Hoffmann—was first presented in Paris, France and has been hugely successful in the near-century since. Now, until Feb. 21, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal offers you the comedic, moving and exquisite piece on the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier stage. The ballet was originally choreographed by Saint-Léon and French choreographer Pierre Lacotte’s adaptation of the classic can now be seen performed by the Shanghai Ballet, this marking their first performance in Montreal.

Guest conductor Oleksiy Baklan led the Les Grands Ballets Orchestra through their flawless execution of Léo Delibes’ breathtaking music. The atmosphere set by each measure was further complemented by the set design that places you in nothing short of a fairytale. With three locations, divided by two intermissions, the audience is swept into the magical world of a village in the kingdom of Galicia, Doctor Coppélius’ workshop and the Lord’s castle.

FAN Xiaofeng dances as Swanhilda in the village in the kingdom of Galicia. Courtesy of Ballet de Shanghai.

Coppélia follows the story of Franz—the fiancée of Swanhilda—falling in love with Coppélia, a girl he has seen in the window of Dr. Coppélius’ workshop. Swanhilda grows jealous of Franz’s infatuation and breaks into the workshop to investigate, where she discovers that Coppélia is not a woman but a doll. When Dr. Coppélius returns to his workshop, Swanhilda quickly hides from sight near the object of Franz’s affection. Franz, soon after, climbs through the window with the intention to confess his love to Coppélia. Dr. Coppélius tricks Franz into drinking himself to sleep, allowing him to attempt to transfer Franz’s human life into his darling Coppélia using a magic spell. Swanhilda dresses herself as the doll and pretends to come to life, but after Coppélius rejoices over his success, the mistake is realized by both him and Franz. The final act is the marriage of the forgiven Franz and Swanhilda and a celebration from the entire village.

The dainty, graceful athleticism of each dancer showcases the Shanghai Ballet’s flawless technical precision as a company and XIN Lili’s skill in directing them. They execute each move in enchanting unison, enough to sweep you away with their mesmerizing synchronicity. There’s incredible beauty to be appreciated in the exquisite lines produced and held with seamless strength by the skilled dancers’ bodies.

Pictured is the set design for the Lord’s castle, the final act of Coppélia. Courtesy of Ballet de Shanghai.

It’s a wordless narrative, the dialogue replaced by poetry in motion and paired with a bewitching symphonic experience. Coppélia will enrapture you with its light-hearted, regal temperament. Become captivated by a pirouette or marvel at a grand jeté as arched feet sail around the stage and dancers leap with an ease that deems gravity an afterthought.


Coppélia will be showing at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier until Feb. 21. For more information and to buy tickets visit

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