Danish ballerina Adeline Genee and members of the Imperial Russian Ballet introduced Australian audiences to Coppelia in Melbourne on the opening night of their 1913 tour. This ballet premiered in Paris on May 25, 1870, choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon to music by Leo Delibes. Its sentimental, comic libretto, based on a tale by E T A Hoffmann, was devised in collaboration with Charles Nuitter. Although Saint-Leon choreographed the ballet in three acts, the third has frequently been abbreviated or omitted from subsequent versions.
The version of Coppelia presented by Genee was produced by Alexandre Volonine, and included musical additions by C J M Glaser and designs by C Wilhelm. The first Australian production took place in 1931 in Sydney, designed and staged by Louise Lightfoot and performed by the First Australian Ballet with Mischa Burlakov dancing as Franz. The 1930s also saw a suite of dances from Coppelia presented by the Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet in a divertissement program during its 1934-35 Australian tour.
The next international company to perform the work in this country was the Original Ballet Russe which opened the brief Sydney season of its two-act production on August 12, 1940. This version was based on Petipa's 1884 revival and staged by Anatol Oboukhoff. Vera Nemtchinova, Tamara Toumanova and Tatiana Riabouchinska alternated as Swanilda, with the roles of Franz and Dr Coppelius performed throughout by Michel Panaieff and Sviatoslav Toumine. Design was by Olga Larose.
Melbourne audiences saw their first Coppelia since the 1913 Genee tour in 1946 when the Borovansky Ballet presented a two-act version with 'choreography by E Borovansky' featuring Edna Busse as Swanilda, Serge Bousloff as Franz and Edouard Borovansky as Dr Coppelius. This popular production remained in the company's repertoire with a revival in the 1950s. A new production, the first in three acts for the Borovansky Ballet, was created in 1960 by the company's new artistic director Peggy van Praagh, featuring designs by Kenneth Rowell. Choreography was credited to 'Lev Ivanov and Enrico Cecchetti' with 'general production revised by Peggy van Praagh'. Kathleen Gorham and Patricia Cox alternated as Swanilda, with Robert Pomie and Jeffrey Kovel as Franz and Algeranoff as Dr Coppelius. This landmark production was presented in the Borovansky Ballet's final performance in 1961 and the inaugural repertoire of the Australian Ballet in 1962. In the new company's opening season guest artists Erik Bruhn and Sonia Arova danced the leading roles. In the 1969 season, Robert Helpmann performed as Dr Coppelius, the role he had first performed in Australia during the 1958-9 Royal Ballet tour.
Van Praagh staged a new version of Coppelia in collaboration with theatre director George Ogilvie and using choreography based on her earlier production and designs by Kristian Fredrikson as her swansong for the Australian Ballet in 1979. Ann Jenner featured as Swanilda, with Kelvin Coe as Franz and Ray Powell as Dr Coppelius. Both of Van Praagh's productions marked important milestones in the history of the flagship company and proved extremely popular.
Coppelia has enjoyed a plethora of professional stagings by other Australian companies. In 1951, the Ballet Guild presented the second act, with designs by Elaine Haxton and with Laurel Martyn and Maxwell Collis in lead roles. The Kouznetsova Ballet also staged this act in the early 1950s, as did the Arts Council Ballet directed by Beth Dean in 1958. The National Theatre Ballet performed a three-act version by Valrene Tweedie in the early 1950s, in which Raymond Trickett and Tweedie danced the leading roles. In 1967, the Victorian Ballet Company, with Poul Gnatt as director, staged an abridged version of the Danish production choreographed by Glasemann and Hans Beck, with Gnatt as Dr Coppelius, Dianne Parrington as Swanilda and Laurence Bishop as Franz. Other productions of Coppelia over the years have been presented by the Sydney Festival Ballet, the North Queensland Ballet, the Tasmanian Ballet and the South Australian Ballet Company. The Queensland Ballet performed the second act in the 1960s, and Leslie White's three-act production in 1977. The West Australian Ballet's staging of the Australian Ballet three-act version, which premiered in 1975 with Ray Powell performing as Dr Coppelius, was a milestone production for this company.
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Two programs for Royal Academy of Dancing galas held in London in which Aldous appeared representing Ballet Rambert. In the 1958 gala she danced an excerpt from Coppelia with Norman Morrice, and in 1960 appeared with other Ballet Rambert dancers in excerpts from Frank Staff's Czernyana.
Harry Haythorne discusses in depth his artistic directorship of the Queensland Ballet between 1975 and 1978. He speaks in particular about his reasons for applying, the position being initially offered to Walter Gore, the state of the company when he arrived, his support staff, touring within Australia and overseas, developing performances for and with children, the board, Hans Brenaa and his work with the company, and his leaving the company. During the course of the interview Haythorne also talks about his work with the Australian Ballet, and about Graeme Murphy's production of Nutcracker, Stanton Welch's version of Cinderella and Peggy van Praagh's staging of Coppelia for that company. He gives details of his family, his early career, and talks about going overseas to study and work. Some of the international companies he speaks about are Ballet Rambert, Metropolitan Ballet, International Ballet, London Ballet, Western Theatre Ballet, Scottish Ballet and the company of Leonide Massine. The interview also contains many references to Haythorne's directorship of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Some of the artists he mentions in some detail are Mona Inglesby, Walter Gore, Paula Hinton, Leonide Massine, Peter Darrell and Poul Gnatt.
Reg Bartram begins by speaking of his family background; early dance training with Edouard Borovansky; the early Borovansky repertoire, including Vltava; rejoining the Borovansky Company after the World War II; further repertoire including Coppelia; the Borovansky production of Terra Australis; and the role of Bill Constable in the Borovansky company. He goes on to talk about working on Oklahoma; the beginnings of his career working as an electrician on various shows; travelling in New Zealand; working with the National Theatre Ballet in Melbourne; Rex Reid's production of Corroboree. Bartram then speaks about the establishment of Strand Electric; his work designing and planning lighting for theatres, city halls and public buildings; working with the Ballet Guild, Sydney Ballet Group and Ballet Australia; and the impact of the New York City Ballet tour to Australia in 1958.