Why Coppelia is a great ballet: #2 – Insights into creative power

Now that we’ve got the synopsis and some historical context of this ballet, I’d like to draw attention to a particular theme that I appreciated in Coppelia: creative power.

If you’ve been following this series so far, you will be aware of how the plot of Coppelia climaxes in act 2, with a test of the magician’s creative power. Can he really cause a doll to come to life? He thinks so, but it all turns out to be a hoax. Act 2 ends with the failed magician crumpled on the floor. He doesn’t have the power he thought he had to create life.

But there are bigger insights into creative power going on. Framing act two are acts one and three: celebrations of the harvest festival. Inside the magician’s workshop, we see the failure of humans to cerate life. But outside, in the town centre, are ongoing celebrations of life. As Swanilda and Franz disappear into the church to be married, the town erupts with dancing. First there is a dance of hours, twelve women dancing to represent the passage of time. They are followed by a single ballerina, the dawn, representing the sun. Finally another ballerina emerges. She is prayer, representing God in all of this. Coppelia emphasises that these three factors are necessary for a successful harvest – God, the sun and the passing of time.

Here is a bigger kind of creative power. Where Dr Coppelius fails, God and his creation succeed, and continue to succeed with every year and every harvest.

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