Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Delibes is Da Best (Sort of)
I almost never go to ballet. Fundamentally, it's pantomime set to music, and I have little use for pantomime (though yes, I played charades a few times when I was young).
But there is something I do like about ballet: the music. One of my favorite ballets music-wise is Coppélia by Léo Delibes. I'm especially fond of the mazurka from the first act.
My wife wanted to see Coppélia, so we went last Sunday even though I was worried about going. Why was I worried? I was afraid that viewing the dancing might interfere with future enjoyment of the music that heretofore had no images associated with it. I worried that the next time I heard Coppélia, I'd conjure up my memory of the dancing and scenery and that would dilute the music's impact.
In any case I was committed. We went, we sat through it. We returned home. The house is disrupted due to painting, so I haven't located and played my Coppélia CD, but my guess is that I'm not likely to get much image pollution thanks in part to the ballet's length.
The production was one created by the Pacific Northwest Ballet featuring the choreography of George Balanchine. So it could be expected to be a good version of Coppélia, and probably was. (I have no background for judging which ballet productions are excellent as opposed to being just average. Same goes for opera.)
I liked the first act which takes place in a town square in Galicia, the part of Poland ruled by Austria-Hungary. It has most of the best music. That compensated for a fair amount of activity that didn't advance the plot (such as it was). The second act, set in the digs of toymaker Coppélius, was just okay. The third act, a town festival, was a dud so far as I was concerned. It was essentially a string of set-piece dances that were probably fine for ballet fans, but lacked any plot advancement to hold my interest.
The fault, if I can call it that, lies in the "book" of the ballet that allowed the third act to be what it was. Delibes' music for the act wasn't all that great either -- nothing like the great stuff in the first act.
Given that I'm way, way out of my league when it comes to ballet, take my comments with as much salt as you can find.