Date: 04 March 2015
The Birmingham Royal Ballet are back at The Lowry with an enchanting production of Coppélia. As David Bintley CBE celebrates his twentieth year as director of the company, there really is no ballet more apt for this occasion than the story of Coppélia, packed full of mischievous humour, triumph and joy.
As the Royal Ballet Sinfonia begin to play and the gauze raises to reveal Peter Farmer‘s impressive leafy set, we are transported to a village somewhere in Eastern Europe where Dr Coppélius, an eccentric toy maker wheels out his latest mechanical creation on to his workshop balcony. His only wish is to bring this wind-up doll, Coppélia, to life. Michael O’Hare tells the story of the funny doctor well and looks the part with his puzzled facial expressions and his frazzled white hair.
When Coppélia is left out on the doctors workshop balcony she arrouses attention from flirtatious Franz and the green eye of jealousy from his wife-to-be Swanilda, with neither of the pair realising that she is only a doll.
When the two lovers, separately and unknowingly decide to enter Dr Coppélius’ strange workshop comic chaos is unleashed. Swanilda and her friends pull off the dusty red drapes in the doctors spooky workshop to reveal more of his mechanical dolls. Peter Wright‘s choreography succeeds in bringing all of the humour in the story to the fore, not an opportunity is missed and the world class dancers deliver with energy and sparkle.
Elisha Willis as Swanilda is as an amazing storyteller as she is a dancer – with impeccable timing she conveys humour while delivering complex ballet sequences with ease. Chi Cao as Franz shows a lightness of movement in his solo pieces – turning effortlessly as he appears to float in mid air. Again, a good actor, performing with a good hint of arrogance as the flighty Franz. Following the two striking female soloists in Act III, Celine Gittens and Delia Mathews, the pas de deux between the two main dancers appears to lack a little confidence though.
Peter Farmer‘s intricate, striking set design frames the dancing perfectly, the leafy forrest and Dr Coppélius’ workshop through to the grand drapes and garlands during the Festival of the Bell.
This joyous and witty ballet is a light hearted and humorous celebration of love, suitable for seasoned dance lovers or those who are making their first trip to the ballet. I took Thing 1 (aged 9) and he found it easy to follow and found the story very amusing. With Delibes wonderful musical score, stunningly pretty costumes and Peter Wright’s impressive choreography, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia really is a magical feast for the senses.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia continues at the Lowry until Saturday March 7th.
With First Steps: A Child’s Coppélia on Friday March 6 at 1pm.