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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!

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We were also treated to a delightful performance at the Sunderland Empire on Friday evening. Both Ambra Vallo as Swanilda and Tyrone Singleton as Franz danced with an appealing sense of hilarity, humour and convincing rapport of comedy, fun and genuineness. We went with our dance school, the children had fabulous front row seats and this was the first time some of the children, my DD's, myself and my mum have ever seen Coppelia. We thoroughly enjoyed both the humour and cheekiness and were astounded by the fabulous acting/dancing performance by all the cast.

We are definitely looking forward to BRB's next performances up in the North East!! Definitely Bravo!!

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Birmingham Royal Ballet brought their production - by Sir Peter Wright - of Coppelia to the London Coliseum this week. It's very handsome-looking, even if its designs do bring to mind more Giselle than the usually rather more brightly-coloured Coppelia. I'd seen it back in its inaugural year at the Royal Opera House in 1995 (when I note that one of the soldiers in Act II was played by a very young Robert Parker), and hadn't taken to the production then, and this re-viewing of it a decade-and-a-half later only served to confirm my feelings. For me, at least on this showing, it seems to be rather prosaic, and lacking in any sense of magic, marvel or mystery (perhaps it had more originally, before the ending - which I didn't like - was changed) or, for that matter, any real sense of narrative development/logic compared with the other productions which I've seen.

 

Taking just as one example the "transformation" scene in Act II: in any other production that I've seen, you can see Swanilda's brain working, as she tries to figure out what on earth Coppelius is doing - watching him even when she's pretending to be the doll, sneaking a peak at the spell book so that she knows how to react to make it look as though the spell has worked - but here it seems to be done virtually solely by telepathy, which must be confusing to someone who isn't particularly familiar with the ballet (and it's not performed much these days, it has to be said). In most productions I've been aware of a "coming-of-age" character arc for Franz: starting as a flirtatious young man, not ready to be tied down, he undergoes a rather unpleasant experience which makes him mature, and ready to make a real commitment to his fiancee - not unlike in The Two Pigeons, shown a few days previously (which in turn is not dissimilar to Daphnis and Chloe, but that's another matter) - but here I didn't get any feeling that there had been any real change in his behaviour between the first and last acts (because the experience wasn't actually particularly bad, or there was no real threat to him?), and I thought the ballet was diminished as a result.

 

Anyway, hopefully other people will have appreciated the production more than I did. What did you think?

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My 11 year old daughter and I saw and enjoyed Coppelia last night. I feel Coppelia is a bit Nutcracker in an East European village. The production is a bit sugary and the comedy is emphasised at the expense of the magic. There's little of the dark undertones and other-worldliness that you find in most productions of the Nutcracker. Dr Coppelius does not really come across as a sinister figure but more of an eccentric villager but perhaps that's how it's supposed to be. I really liked the sets and costumes and thought that the dancing as a whole was good. Matthew Lawrence had a lot of stage presence and Elisha Willis was very sweet. The mime was very clear, perhaps even a little exaggerated.

 

It was gratifying to see so many young and youngish people sitting in the balcony. There were some adults with children but a lot more couples and groups in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Ballet companies seem to believe that they have to put on edgy or contemporary work to attract younger audiences and so it was interesting to see how many young(ish) people had come to see a light-hearted romantic ballet.

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It's funny Alison, I enjoyed this production of Coppelia for the reasons you didn't, it does have a Giselle feel and I loved the way it puts the ballet back to the late Romantic era, in fact the first thing I thought (from my position high up looking down from the side) was of watching a Degas picture, especially as the Swanilda was Ambra Vallo who has a very soft look and technique. Tyrone Singelton had a more Romantic approach too, which I also liked, there were a lovely couple. The evening pair, Elsha Willis and Matthew Lawrence , danced in the more usual way, fast and funny, it was a very good contrast and made me think of how very different ballets look with each cast!

 

There were some marvellous soloists too, Celine Gittens did a beautiful Dawn, and both Yijing Zhang and Samara Downs were very pure as Prayer, in fact the whole season was a huge pleasure! On a more prosaic note, good informative programme and thanks for keeping the intervals down!

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Thanks for pointing that out, Paul. And my apologies to Janet - had I been a little more alert to BRB's schedule, I'd have known that there was no way we didn't already have a thread for the subject :)

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last minute decision to do the sunday matinee and about half a house clearly wholeheartedly enjoyed the ballet and laetitia with joe caley (particularly stunning jumps) - have just been reading thro the above and agree with you alison almost word for word - there was never any doubt that this swanhilda might not lead frantz up the aisle whatever his little foibles with other gals which rather destroys the whole point of the story to my (has to be logical) mind!! the rather nasty elements to my mind - mugging an old man who is going about his own business quietly - breaking in & vandalising his home - paying him off at the end which is supposed to suddenly make everything all right i think are totally skated over & sugar coated - what would sir kenneth's version have been like i wonders m'dear?!!

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