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Birmingham Royal Ballet gave 4 performances of Coppelia in Sunderland and I was very happy to be there. I saw 3 of the performances and I have to say that they all sparkled! SPW's production of Coppelia is just gorgeous with its sumptuous sets and costumes and its attention to detail. On Thursday evening Miki Mizutani was just sublime as Swanilda with Tzu-Chao Chou as her "cheeky chappy" Franz. Her dancing was glorious and her depth of characterisation was beautiful to watch. The role of Franz fits Tzu-Chao like a glove. The incomparable Michael O'Hare gave a performance full of fun and pathos as Dr Coppelius. Friday afternoon was a treat with a sparky Maureya Lebowitz as Swanilda and Lachlan Monaghan as her exuberant Franz. I had a huge grin on my face throughout the whole performance! On Friday evening Arancha Baselga was a fun-loving Swanilda with Max Maslen hitting just the right note of cheekiness as Franz. The whole performance was just lovely. At all 3 performances I saw Celine Gittens was radiant as Dawn and Brooke Ray performed Prayer beautifully. Yasuo Atsuji and Miles Gilliver shared the honours in leading the Call to Arms. Yasuo was particularly exuberant. I suspect that not all of the company was present as most of the corps roles were danced by the same performers at every performance (presumably the rest of the company are preparing for Virginia and Japan) but it mattered not a jot!
BRB has started its latest run of Coppelia in Edinburgh at the Festival Theatre. I missed the opening night but reports claim that Elisha Willis, Joe Caley and Michael O'Hare surpassed themselves. The Thursday matinee was notable for finally giving Samara Downs her first leading role, as Swanilda- previously she's always been a Friend, never the lead. Her dancing was confident and her interpretation impressive. Jamie Bond was a convincing Franz and Rory Mackay a touching Dr Coppelius: modern British productions underplay the sinister elements of Hoffman's eccentric scientist but within that approach Rory's sensitive and detailed characterisation is very effective. In the evening Momoko Hirata's dancing was technically assured and elegant and Cesar Morales's Franz a sympathetic chancer, danced with his usual stylistic aplomb, and Jonathan Payn an effective conventional Coppelius.The Act 3 solos were well done in both performances; Jenna Roberts danced Prayer sensitively in both performances- it's a difficult solo to pull off but she had the necessary gravity and control. As Dawn, Karla Doorbar and Yvette Knight, very different dancers in physique and style, were equally good. In Act 1, Daria Stanciulescu, a dancer new to me, and Maureya Lebowitz, again very different dancers, were sultry Gypsies. On Friday BRB premiered First Steps: a Child's Coppelia. I was unable to see it but it sounds an interesting variation on the child-friendly performances that British companies have been introducing. It was the Festival Theatre iwho suggested it, professional dancers will be performing and talking about their roles and the orchestra will be playing so it will be quite a full scale introduction.
I was in Sunderland for the first three performances of Coppelia. Sir Peter Wright's 1995 production is handsome and very traditional and still looks as fresh as a daisy. Opening night honours went to Elisha Willis and Matthew Lawrence. Elisha is terrific as Swanilda - her outrage at Franz' flirting is a joy to behold and she is very deft of foot in Act 2. Matthew Lawrence "acts big" and Franz suits him. He's a terrific partner. On Thursday evening we were treated to a delightful performance from Laetitia Lo Sardo and Joe Caley. Laetitia is sublime as Swanilda; she is totally subsumed into the role. I adore Joe as Franz - he really is a cheeky chappy with just the right amount of frivolous flirting and enormous energy in his perfomance. The highlight for me was the schools' matinee on Thursday afternoon. The children present were, without exception, wonderfully behaved and created a very enthusiastic and enjoyable atmosphere in the audience. They were treated to a dazzling virtuoso performance from Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao. The roles fitted them like gloves and they brought just the right amount of humour, flirting and pathos to their sparkling, fizzing performance. Bravi to them! The whole company were on joyous form. I particularly enjoyed Callie Roberts as Dawn at one performance and we had three terrific "Call to Arms" leaders in Tyrone Singleton, Matthias Dingman and Tzu-Chao Chou. Jonathan Payn, Rory Mackay and Valentin Olovyannikov are all notable and enjoyable as Doctor Coppelius. Coppelia is at the Coliseum at the end of the week - I do hope you can all get along to see a performance and record your thoughts here!