Two Giant Cherries – A Symbol For Reunion

A modern reinterpretation of COPPELIA by Edward Clug

Interview with choreographer Edward Clug in March 2023

Edward Clug is the artistic director the Slovenian National Theatre Maribor and a renown contemporary choreographer. “COPPELIA“ is a refreshed reinterpretation of the classic comedic ballet originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon and first premiered in Paris in 1870. Edward Clug’s version of COPPELIA saw its world premiere on the 18th of March, 2023 at Theater Basel.

Trailer of COPPELIA BY Theater Basel

What inspired you to reinterpret the classical ballet COPPELIA? 

The audience in the 19th century was looking for entertainment and pleasing ballets. The ballet COPPELIA survived because of its sweetness and almost naivety. I went back to the original mysterious story of THE SANDMANN by E.T.A. Hoffmann, which is based on the desire of Coppélius to bring an automaton to life, no matter the cost.  

In the book, Coppélius is walking around the villages and stealing the eyes of children in order to feed his own children. That’s indeed a scary. In the ballet Franz is drugged by Coppelius in order to steal his soul to deliver it to COPPELIA. 

I decided to use the lead and find a way to bridge COPPELIA the ballet and the book of E.T.A. Hoffmann. My intention was to maintain the charm of the original ballet while integrating motives of Hoffman’s Sandman. This became the principle in the process.

© Gregory Batardon

I chose a minimalistic setting and focused on the main characters: Swanilda, the lively bride who loves Franz, Franz who fell in love with the robotic doll Coppélia and Coppélius, the manipulative inventor of the automats.

© Gregory Batardon

Most people in Basel probably don‘t know the original story therefor I needed to create a clear and a coherent storyline that would deliver a meaningful message. I chose to start the story with the wedding scene, which used to be the end of the original ballet. Coppélius with his assistant are interrupting the wedding by seducing Franz into Coppélius chamber. 

Franz has been obsessed with Coppélia from the moment he saw her, but has a sense of guilt for cheating on Swanilda. The end is set in a poetical way, dramatic and yet touching during the Delibes Flower duet from the opera Lakme. Both Swanilda and Franz are in a way transformed after the peculiar experiences in Coppelius chamber and they are finally reunited in consolation.

© Gregory Batardon

You added new music composed by Milko Lazar to the beautiful romantic music of Léo Delibes. Tell us about the music.

I started to work on a new libretto and decided to work with my long time collaborator Milko Lazar on a separate score, that would emphasize the atmosphere of the dark romantic of the original book (Sandman) in contrast with the charming romanticism of the ballet.    

I originate from these parts of central Europe (Transylvania, Romania) where Delibes founds his source of inspiration for his score. His Czardas or Mazurka tunes can be found geographically in few countries that intersected culturally trough out the history. In a stylized form we can recognize in the choreography and the music the folklore patterns.

What elements did you add to refresh the storyline?

The foundation of my narrative ballet lies in synchronizing the functionality of all the elements involved in the production: music, sets, costumes and dance. They are alternating in various situations taking the lead to the single purpose, which is delivering the message. From choreographer I convert into a theatre director working with the dancers and approach them like actors. You can see that in my previous story telling ballets such as Peer Gynt, Faust and recently Nutcracker. 

Watch the trailer of a rehearsal:

As I already told you, I use symbolic elements to emphasize the story. In this case I am introducing the modern industrial designer Nika Zupanc. 

“The forever bed“ and “Cherry Lamp“ are created by her. This special bed creates a special atmosphere in Coppelius room, where things are appearing and disappearing in mysterious ways. Additionally, there is a practical aspect with the lock in the shape of a ribbon that also gives a playful note. The big white frame with the door creates the illusion of a huge screen or window that allows us quick changes and also to achieve playful situation.

© Gregory Batardon

I also had the suggestive idea with the balloons, which are inflated by the dancers. Coppelius is storing their breath in the balloons and he sees the possible potential to bring to life his Coppelia with the breath of the young villagers. He fails in his comical attempt. An important addition to the story is the impression that Coppelia comes to life after ‘extracting‘ the soul of Swanilda during a prolonged kiss. For a brief moment Coppelius is mesmerized with his achievement before he realises that Swanilda is still alive. Swanilda unites in her revenge with Coppelia, which in the end turns against its master. Coppelius is defeated and Franz liberated by her lover.

© Gregory Batardon

A symbol of the reunion of Swanilda and Franz are two giant cherries, together like a heart in the color red, you could almost taste the flavor of the fruit) that’s an unexpected appearance that generates a pleasant sensation as the last image of the ballet.

Next performances at Theater Basel: 27.4./ 5.5./ 17.05./ 20.5./ 27.05. /31.05./ 2.6./ 4.6./ 10.06./18.06./ 26.06./


Pressestimmen (on website

Die Basler Inszenierung ist formal sehr fantasievoll und vielschichtig aufgebaut. Die Tänzerinnen und Tänzer verbinden sich hervorragend mit dem Bühnenraum und faszinieren durch abwechslungsreiche und poetische Repetitionen und ein eigenwilliges Bewegungsrepertoire. Edward Clug gelingt es mit dieser Neuinterpretation des Ballettklassikers, das Publikum zu fesseln und zu verführen.

Basler Zeitung

Ob roboterhafte oder spielerische Bewegungen; parallele oder diagonale Gruppenverschiebungen; Hebefiguren, denen eine komplizierte Verschlingung vorausgeht oder Swanildas Lauf über viele Händepaare: Alles zeugt von einem Einfallsreichtum, der insbesondere die Paare konsequent auf Augenhöhe tanzen lässt. Im Einklang mit dem hoch motivierten, Lust am Ungewöhnlichen versprühenden Ballett Basel ist Edward Clug mit seiner Neuinterpretation von ‹Coppélia› ein Wurf geglückt.

bz Basel

Edward Clugs Stärke liegt in der Musikalität, mit der er auf die Ballettmusik von Léo Delibes reagiert und die er um eine neue Komposition von Milko Lazar erweitert (mit Cimbalom). Das ist für Ohren und Augen so eingängig wie verführerisch, denn selbstredend ist alles makellos und technisch perfekt getanzt.

Badische Zeitung


Edward Clug is a Slovenian choreographer and artistic director of the Ballet of the Slovenian National Theatre in Maribor.

© Tiberiu Marta

He was born in Beius, Romania. He graduated from the National Ballet School in Cluj-Napoca in 1991 and received his first appointment at the Slovenian National Theatre in Maribor the same year, dedicating his career of more than three decades to the country that welcomed him.

He discovered his vocation for choreography early on and, after several successful productions, took over as director of the ballet in 2003. In 2005, he created the performance Radio & Juliet to the music of Radiohead, which became a worldwide hit and brought him international recognition. His unique interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps in 2012 and the breakthrough of his first full-length ballet Peer Gynt in 2015 made him an important choreographic voice of his generation.

He then began collaborating with other ballet companies around the world, putting the Slovenian National Theatre Maribor Ballet on the world dance map. Over the years, he developed close relationships with Stuttgart Ballet, where he prepared a new version of The Nutcracker last year, and Zurich Ballet, where he created the full-length ballet Faust in 2018. He has also worked successfully with Dutch Dance Theatre, where he created several projects for NDT2 and NDT1. He was also invited to join the famous Bolshoi Theatre Ballet in Moscow, where he directed and choreographed Bulgakov’s masterpiece The Master and Margarita.

He has received several national and international awards for his work and was nominated for the prestigious Benois de la Danse Award in 2017 and the German theatre prize Der Faust in 2019. In 2022, he received the Silver Order of Merit of the Republic of Slovenia and the Medal of Cultural Merit of Romania for his contribution to the development of culture and art.

ALL Information of Theater Basel

Musikalische Leitung – Thomas HerzogGeorg Köhler 
Originalmusik von Léo Delibes mit Neukompositionen von Milko Lazar
Konzept/Libretto/Choreografie – Edward Clug
Bühne – Marko JapeljNika Zupanc
Kostüme – Leo Kulaš
Musik-Komposition – Milko Lazar
Lichtdesign – Tomaž Premzl
Dramaturgie – Sarah Brusis, Max Schaffenberger


Swanilda – Gaia Mentoglio Show activity dates of Gaia Mentoglio, Celia Sandoya Show activity dates of Celia Sandoya 
Coppélia – Tana Rosás Suñé Show activity dates of Tana Rosás Suñé, Andrea Tortosa Vidal Show activity dates of AndreaTortosa Vidal
Franz – Daniel Rodriguez Domenech Show activity dates of Daniel Rodriguez Domenech, Aleix Labara Show activity dates of Aleix Labara
Coppélius – Thomas Martino Show activity dates of Thomas Martino, Max Zachrisson Show activity dates of Max Zachrisson
Coppélius Assistent – Diego Benito Gutierrez
Frauen – Eva BlunnoLydia CarusoGiovanna DoriaSerena LandrielLisa Horten-SkilbreiStefanie PechtlMarina Sanchez GarrigósRachelle ScottGiuliana SollamiSophie Vergères
Männer – Giacomo AltovinoRubén Bañol HerreraElias BoersmaJared BrownMirko CampigottoDayne FlorenceDavid LagerqvistNolan MillioudFrancisco PatricioMatias Rocha Moura
Cimbalom-Spieler – Markus Schmied
Ballett Theater Basel
Sinfonieorchester Basel

Image Header © Gregory Batardon

Autor: ballettlovers

I danced ballet as child, albeit with little success. Despite this, my passion for ballet and dance has carried into adulthood. I still love to watch ballet performances and would love to share my passion with you.

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