When I was leaving London a few weeks ago I thought I had to say goodbye not only to my friends and family, but also to the evenings at the Royal Opera House – the moments of thrill, elation and pure joy that the music, singing and dancing can provide. The last thing I was expecting to uncover in Ulaanbaatar was an opera house, and yet…

Nicole and I decided to give the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet a try last Saturday. We thought we simply could not go wrong with £7 tickets for the front row seats.

The Mongolian opera and ballet company has a rather impressive repertoire of both classical and local productions, ranging from Swan Lake and Coppelia (which we saw on Saturday) to Tears of Lama and multiple incarnations of Chinggis Khaan epic stories.

In the past couple of years I have been certainly spoiled by the quality and inventiveness of the Royal Ballet which makes it rather difficult to not to notice when a production is sub-par. Nonetheless, I came to see Coppelia with an open mind.

Before the curtains went up, three people came up on stage; you could tell one of them was a dancer. There was a speech followed by a lot of clapping. When we later asked our Mongolian friend what was happening, she explained that one of the soloist received the most prestigious Order of the Northern Star from the president. We were informed that it was the only way that the government tried to keep the most talented artists in Mongolia when they were being scouted to other ballet companies abroad.

The ballet itself was light, funny and easygoing. The dancers were keen and enthusiastic and the orchestra playing live from the pit did their very best. The experience was certainly worth it and the audience seemed to be very pleased with the entire show.

Coppelia is a comic ballet by Leo Delibes, with libretto by Charles-Louis-Etienne Nuitter. The main plot revolves around Coppelia – a doll so life-like that a village youth, Franz, falls in love with her, to the dismay of his fiancee, Swanhilda. The use of the doll motif creates some spectacular ‘mechanical’ dancing from Swanhilda when she dresses up as Coppelia to save Franz from the evil Dr. Coppelius.  If you have never seen it before, have a look at the exquisite Bolshoi production here.

The beautiful ceiling of the main auditorium.
Franz and Swanhilda
Act III – The Wedding
Coppelia and Franz

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