Coppélia, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, July 2014

ENB’s Coppélia is not only a huge bundle of fun, but Delibes’ music really found its heart under the baton of music director Gavin Sutherland. Sometimes dancers are let down by indifferent conducting, but Sutherland coaxes a sensitive, loving performance from his orchestra, with real bounce when needed. Sets and costumes are a delight, and I loved the cavernous interior of Dr. Coppélius’s house in Act II.

Swanilda and Franz, all images ENB/ David Jensen

Swanilda and Franz, all images ENB/ David Jensen

On this first night of the present run, Shiori Kase and Yonah Acosta, making their debuts in the roles of Swanilda and Franz, danced beautifully together, as they have in other roles. Her superb technique allowed her to glide ethereally across the stage in Act III, and she exhibited a lovely mix of joy and anxious concern with her wayward lover. His stage presence was full of youthful fire, and his turns and leaps were terrific, particularly at the end of Act I as he flies towards Coppélius’s balcony. But this was a team effort and Acosta’s boundless vivacity (except when Coppélius has him connected to that strange life transference machine!) was complemented by wonderful performances from the whole cast.

Swanilda's pretence as a doll with Dr. Coppélius

Swanilda’s pretence as a doll with Dr. Coppélius

Crystal Costa and Laurretta Summerscales made attractive debuts in the Act III divertissements for Dawn and Prayer, and the ensemble dancing in Acts I and III was excellent. So good that one can hardly praise individuals though I particularly liked Madison Keesler’s gentle grace as one of Swanilda’s friends. The dolls were wonderful, with Jung ah Choi an excellent Coppélia doll, and Isabelle Brouwers brilliantly mechanical as the Chinese doll.

And throughout the three acts we were blessed with the wonderful presence of Michael Coleman as a lively, determined, eccentric Dr. Coppélius, so keen for his beautiful, almost human new creation to attract attention as he peeps out from behind the shutters.

The happy couple in Act III

The happy couple in Act III

This version of Coppélia to Desmond Heeley’s designs with their quaintly magical sets, and with Petipa’s choreography so ably adapted by Ronald Hynd, is an utter delight. And Delibes’ music, perhaps his finest ballet score, is played with joy and sensitivity throughout.

Performances in London continue until July 27. In the autumn it moves to the Mayflower, Southampton (Oct 15–18), New Theatre, Oxford (Oct 28 – Nov 1) and the Bristol Hippodrome (Nov 4–8) — for details click here.

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