It is magical from the very start.
As the lights in the theatre dim, the live orchestra introduces the production by playing a taste of the beautiful musical score. The plush, red curtain lifts to reveal the shows title on an ornate screen which slowly becomes transparent, almost as if the sun is rising, to reveal the most beautiful, intrinsic set I’ve ever seen (the pictures do not do it justice).
As the orchestra begins its jaunty composition and the villagers appear on stage, I am reminded of my favourite Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. Set in a similar time, the late 1800s, and place, a village in France, with characters of similar personality, Maurice is very much like Dr Coppélius (Michael O’Hare), I can’t help but instantly fall in love.
Although there are no real villains in this show with a good vs. bad dynamic, it s a show that takes you through the emotions and because of that it is enthralling. Mostly, the beauty of Coppélia is that it is funny and captivating. As an interpretive piece, the actors are well versed at being expressive with big gestures to articulate emotions and context and as such it is easy to follow the concept of the story- although some elements are more difficult to translate where dance is the feat to illustrate the story (mostly in Act 3)- we ultimately we have a firm understanding of what is happening; most ballets are not so eloquent and therefore more difficult to follow, this is absolutely not the case in Coppélia. As such I think Coppélia would appeal to a younger generation and to those who may not usually chose to see this style of performance. In addition we have the advantage of two intermissions which gives the opportunity to digest and fully appreciate what we have seen.
Many say that greatest ballet productions of all time for universal likeability would be Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker but for me Coppélia is the best ballet I’ve seen and the Birmingham Royal Ballet are an exquisite troupe.
The story is about a Dr Coppélius, a toymaker keen to make his most proud creation Coppélia come to life; on this particular morning as she is sitting on the balcony, he is delighted that his neighbour, Swanilda (Céline Gittens), believes she is in fact a real person; but Swanilda is perplexed that this woman is seemingly rejecting her welcome. A little while later her fiancé, Franz (Tyron Singleton)- who is somewhat of a ladies man, comes to call and is taken aback by the beauty on the balcony- Swanilda who catches this greeting is startled that Coppélia seems to be flirting. Confused, and a little hurt, Swanilda- who like Franz is actually quite playful and mischievous- tests Franz’ love for her and sets out on a quest to find out more about this mysterious woman.
Coppélia performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet will be at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 1st of July
Featured image: Elisha Willis as Swanilda and Michael O’Hare as Dr Coppélius, photo by Andrew Ross