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English National Ballet: Coppélia, London, July 2014


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The long awaited production of Ronald Hynd's Coppelia opens tonight at the Coliseum. The leads at the general rehearsal were Shiori Kase as Swanilda and Yonah Acosta as Franz, supported by a very happy looking company. Here are pictures from the three acts.

 

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 Swanilda - Shiori Kase and Franz - Yonah Acosta in act 1
 
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Shiori Kase - Swanilda as doll and Michael Coleman - Dr Coppelius in act 2

 

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Crystal Costa as Dawn and bridesmaids in act 3
 
 
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I saw tonight's performance which was well received by the audience who (with the exception of my stony-faced daughter) laughed quite a lot at the comedy. Shiori gave a very good performance as Swanhilda and had obviously done a lot of work on the acting side of things. I wasn't so impressed by Yonah as Franz. In truth, he did not have a lot of dancing to do but he didn't make the most of what he did have. Some of his dancing was a bit untidy and I didn't think that he was a particularly attentive (or secure) partner, which contributed to the lack of chemistry between him and Shiori. Laurretta was lovely as Prayer (her debut) and the corps generally danced well. The village setting and costumes were attractive, but the scene in Dr Coppelius' house was rather dark. 

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Personally when dancers are making their debuts in the roles, I tend to cut them quite a bit of slack.

 

For me Kase had the makings of a first rate Swanhilda and Acosta found a good deal of humour in his role as Franz and clearly had the audience on his side.  Michael Coleman was one of the best Dr Coppelius's I've ever seen and the entire company performed with verve.  It was a very enjoyable evening.

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I've never been a big fan of Coppelia as a ballet but I really enjoyed last night's performance.

 

I thought that Shiori Kase danced beautifully and acted the feisty role of Swanhilda very convincingly. It is a huge part for the ballerina, who hardly seems to be offstage and always dancing when she is on it, and Shiori carried it off with great aplomb in my view. Yonah Acosta displayed a lot of roguish charm and got me smiling, especially when he was carrying the ladder furtively across the stage at the end of Act I. He seems made for the role of Franz. Laurretta Summerscales delivered  a  'wobble free' Prayer solo. Michael Coleman was, quite simply, terrific as Dr Coppelius in all his many dimensions.

 

The Company as a whole was on great, vivacious form and carried me through what I have previously found to be the ballet's longeurs. I am now looking forward to seeing other casts.

 

[As a postscript, it is interesting to note that, although only 5 Swanhildas will be fielded in London, ENB currently has such strength in its female ranks that there are potentially another 7 (at least) waiting to dance on tour in the autumn.]

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Sorry to mention it but it is Swanilda not Swanhilda.  I checked with the ENB.

 

I think you'll find that both spellings are used.  I believe the French spelling was originally Swanhilde and you'll find both Swanhilda and Swanilda in use, depending on the production.

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Lovely photos of last night's cast, I never used to like Coppelia but now appreciate the softer, almost Romantic style of this ballet which suited Shiori Kase, after a slightly nervous start she soon relaxed and was charming, Yonah Acosta's style was gentler than usual and in keeping with this ballet , they were well paired.The programme explains that Franz was danced en travesti which explains why his solo's can seem rather vapid (some productions use different music) also why there is no really big pdd.

 

Michael Coleman was amazing, all that running about, he plays Coppelius as a sweet old man with no sinister tones which is a nice change these days, and the whole production has a very old-fashioned pretty quality.

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Here are a couple more sample photos from us at DanceTabs. Its a lovely production, looking forward to seeing it properly :-)
 
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ENB’s Coppelia - Shiori Kase as Swanilda, Michael Coleman as Dr Coppelius
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
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ENB’s Coppelia - Yonah Acosta as Franz, Shiori Kase as Swanilda
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
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Set from DanceTabs: English National Ballet - Coppelia
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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I saw the Takahashi/Bufula cast this afternoon and really enjoyed the performance. It felt more of an ensemble piece and I felt that Bufula (his debut) had more connection with the corps. He doesn't have quite as much of a comedic touch as Acosta but he made a suitably cheeky Franz and his partnering was very smooth. He received loud applause at the end. Takahashi was amazingly doll-like in Dr Coppelius' house and her dancing was polished as always. I felt that the corps had taken things up a notch particularly in the first act. Swanhilda's friends in particular really sparkled. Alison McWhinney was a little tentative in her Prayer solo. Unfortunately, she was slightly knocked by one of the other dancers just before she began. I'm not keen on Franz's solo in the third act. I find it a bit inelegant. That is the only jarring note for me among much attractive and varied choreography. There were a lot of children there today. I don't think that I've ever seen as many children at a performance with the exception of The Nutcracker.

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A very brief Independent review can be found here.  

 

Thought Lendorf was charm personified and a non-abashed cad of a Franz replete with Danish thunder thighs from the get-go.  He joyously goosed Stina Quagabeur's enticing Mazurka leader I noticed.  (Why is that dancing couple not listed on the ENB cast sheet?)  The mime was truly supreme and oh, so easy in Lendorf's hands.  His solos were beautifully weighted and controlled.  I did think that Rojo - albeit ebullient in the second act with a life-time's detail inherent in her communicative clock-work deployment - looked just a tad uncertain in terms of overall confidence with the partnering of the Act III adagio.  At moments therein I felt I caught occasional sight of that ravishing smile being momentarily fixed.  That said, her Spanish variation sizzled supremely and Rojo's relationship with the glory that is Michael Coleman's Coppelius did naught but dramatically blossom as the evening progressed.  Above (and around) all there was oh, so much joy in the ENB ranks and it was warming indeed to witness the sincerity of Tamarin Stott's genuine interaction with the on-stage children.  As ever, the stunning ENB orchestra under Gavin Sutherland's masterful direction remains the best balletic ensemble in town.  A good evening.   

Edited by Bruce Wall
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COPPELIA - 24TH JULY 2014 - ROJO/LENDORF/COLEMAN

 

Ronald Hynd's production of Coppelia is the very first one I ever saw as a ballet-watching newbie in 1985.  I've always remembered it with affection although it is some years since I have seen it.  I was hoping that my memories weren't rose tinted.  I needn't have worried, it is a gorgeous traditional production.  Ronald Hynd has introduced some little devices into the plot to make it more believable, for instance Swanilda is the Burgomaster's daughter.  It is certainly a handsome production and I particularly love the Dance of the Hours.  Dr Coppelius is not portrayed as sinister, just an eccentric elderly gentleman who makes automata and is something of a scientist too.  The ballet ends joyously with the dancers still partying as the curtain drops.  It makes you believe that the party is still going on and that the characters have a life beyond the end of the ballet!

 

Tamara Rojo is not a natural Coppelia but she dances the role beautifully and acts it well.  I thought she looked a bit wooden in Act 1 but her Act 2 was spot on, with plenty of zest and humour.  Act 3 was a riot of joy.

 

Her Franz was Alban Lendorf, unbelievably making his debut in the role.  He is a sumptuous dancer in the Danish style with characterisation in his blood; he has got such beautiful feet! His dancing has a beautiful, elegant clarity that is just a joy to watch. I had high expectations of his performance and I was not disappointed!  He did not so much act the role as inhabit it - he was just so believable as the cheeky chappy who can't help flirting despite his love of Swanilda.  Every tiny gesture was imbued with meaning and his understated acting filled the audience with his natural presence.  He and Tamara Rojo were terrific together.

 

To watch Michael Coleman as Dr Coppelius was to watch a masterclass in character acting.  He brought the eccentric doctor to life with tiny gestures and made him a person you really care about.

 

Senri Kou and Begona Cao were delightful as Dawn and Prayer, Senri in particular bringing a joyous presence to the bouncy role of Dawn.

 

The whole company looked as though they were having a ball and I left the auditorium at the end on a wave of euphoria!

 

I hope we get more opportunities to see Alban Lendorf in the UK.

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Just got back from seeing Coppelia.  This is my second visit to the coliseum and my second viewing of the English National Ballet.  I really liked the Coliseum and just got there in time as Whitehall was full of barricades for the latest big protest taking up ballet goers space.

 

Overall the performance was very entertaining and I thought the company did a very proficient job.  It looked pretty faultless and I enjoyed the second act particularly.  The dress circle wasn't full so I was able to move seat 3 times.  It was a nice show and the children in audience seemed to really enjoy it.

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The second (enhanced) outing of the Rojo/Lendorf coupling in ENB's Coppelia on the evening of 26.7.14 witnessed a marriage made in heaven.  The Act III adagio on this occasion was as creamy as one could surely have ever prayed for; here supplying an ode to serene luster much as Delibes himself might well have dictated.  Hymen (alongside the rest of us) smiled.  Rojo gleamed throughout.  She made intimately physical the delectably humane felicity of her Swanilda's buoyant beatitude.  Lendorf seductively yanked his Franz into the 21st Century with an ease first wittily suggested in his role debut on Thursday whilst entirely honouring each of the 19th Century balletic necessities in both treasured performances.  Each aspect was here enshrined with an even more uncomplicated yet appropriately acute aplomb as per the golden path of Danish tradition.  Nothing was overly (or overtly) fussy or enforced.. Both artists - together and apart - guided us towards the elation of their rightful euphoria by the simplest of means. Surely that is a true test of brilliance.  Together their keen grace rose in tandem with Maestro Sutherland's enchanted baton without hesitation.  All three led a celebration in deed.  Bravi ENB.

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I saw the Takahashi/Bufala cast again. I think that it's one of Takahashi's best roles. Her dancing is so featherlight and unforced (I'd love to see her in La Sylphide, which I know she has danced abroad). I don't know what you call those feet together forward jumps diagonally across the stage (with one hand holding her apron) towards the end of the first act but they were really marvellous as were her backward hops on pointe whilst drawing round her raised leg. She and Bufala look good together and appear to like dancing together; he seems to be a considerate partner. I wonder whether they will become regular partners. I should mention Daniel Kraus. He was an amusing Dr Coppelius. Stina Quagbeur is the queen of slavic-type character dancing in boots. I was quite surprised to see Sarah Kundi, Joshua McSherry-Gray and Adela Ramirez dancing yesterday afternoon and at the Thursday matinee as they were dancing in the OHP Adriana Lecouvreur both evenings. 

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The second (enhanced) outing of the Rojo/Lendorf coupling in ENB's Coppelia on the evening of 26.7.14 witnessed a marriage made in heaven. ..  Nothing was overly (or overtly) fussy or enforced. Both artists - together and apart - guided us towards the elation of their rightful euphoria by the simplest of means. Surely that is a true test of brilliance...  Bravi ENB.

I couldn't agree more and feel that Rojo gets frequently shortchanged on this forum, although I can't imagine why. The only time that I have felt underwhelmed by her was, surprisingly, in her pairing with Nicolas Le Riche in Le Jeune Homme, perhaps because his performance was so sublime. ENB have developed into a force to be reckoned with. Long may they continue!

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I couldn't agree more and feel that Rojo gets frequently shortchanged on this forum, although I can't imagine why.

 

I tend, rather, to think that (in common with some professional reviewers who choose their phrasing carefully!) people on here hold back from being critical of Tamara Rojo. We all see things differently but, for me, her Swanilda was carefully danced with little of the charm or comedic lightness the role requires and the necessary bounce and happiness in Act III was missing from both her and Alban Lendorf.

 

[i'm now running for cover..............!!!!]

Edited by capybara
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I don't agree that Rojo gets shortchanged on this forum. Like most dancers she has weaknesses as well as strengths and is better suited to some roles than others. Even the most devoted fan would accept that his/her favourite does not excel at every role. I didn't see Rojo in Coppelia and so I can't comment on her performance, but it appears from comments by others that she was more comfortable in the role last night.

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Regarding Jeune Homme, I think that the female role is actually quite a difficult one. It's more about your persona than your dancing, which is pretty limited. Le Riche was totally mesmerising and almost anyone would have been overshadowed by him. Lunkina shone in the role but she wasn't dancing with Le Riche.

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I was a little underwhelmed when I saw the ENB version for the first time with the Acosta/Kase cast, it seemed a bit fussy and repetitive. I rather liked Kase and Crystal Costa on that day, the second act overall and I thought the company looked really good, but I kept getting bored and looked at the sets instead, wondering whether there is such a thing as 1970s Pastiche Baroque and why costumes always have so much brown in them.

 

To my utter surprise, I really enjoyed the next performance I saw, it was charming and funny, like an icecream sundae on a hot day. Rojo and Lendorf were a treat, some of the dances probably remained a little uninspiring, but everyone seemed to have that extra little sparkle.

 

It's not a ballet to make my heart stop and I probably won't need to see it more than once in a run, but I'm glad I booked 2 performances and didn't end up putting it onto my 'permanently avoid' list.

 

Overall, I think I prefer the Petit version ( I assume that's heresy in the UK judging by some reviews I saw last year - I think it was described as 'arch bum-wriggling' on the arts desk)

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I wondered what people who had seen both the Tamara Rojo performances thought of last night, I think she is a variable dancer but yesterday she was at her best, beautiful smooth technique, also very glad to see Alban Lendorf who is very stylish and a great actor, the audience were more involved than on Wednesday, it reminded me of when Tamara Rojo was partnered by Johan Kobborg in Giselle at the ROH, I could certainly imagine both Rojo/Lendorf and Kase/Acosta in this ballet when ENB dance it again.  Very sensible of ENB not to clash with the Mariinsky, though not sure whether this was planned or not.

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I attended three performances (Friday, Saturday matinee and Sunday) and I must say, with all the horrible things happening in the world at the moment, it was wonderful to have over seven hours of pure escapism! With its rather silly story, Coppélia is one of those ballets which could easily descend into a cheesy mess, especially if the actual choreography is in danger of being overpowered by the chocolate-box designs.  However, ENB’s 1985 production by Ronald Hynd is saved by the sheer exuberance of the dancers and their formidable technique (this is first and foremost a showcase for classical technique of the highest order with an inconsequential story tacked on) plus, of course, the ravishing and melodious score by Delibes, who gave ballet music its “heart”.

 

Friday night marked the welcome return to the stage of Dmitri Grudzyev after an absence of several months due to injury, during which he toured as Ballet Master for “My First Coppélia”.  His Franz is full of youthful enthusiasm and mischief and his dancing is powerful, having lost none of its ballon, with his trademark panther-like landings and perfect endings to multiple pirouettes, and his final manège in Act III must still be the envy of the younger men in the company. He also gave a masterclass in having total command of the stage without appearing to play to the audience. He is, of course, a very experienced and sympathetic partner and showed off his Swanilda, Fernanda Oliveira, to perfection.  They have a chemistry which is almost palpable, making their constant spats and making-up totally natural and believable.  Oliveira is blessed with an instinctive air for comedy, with her very expressive face and a smile that radiates sunshine, as well as beautiful feet and rock solid technique which made her two diagonals of brisés in the Ear of Corn scene to die for. She also held some fabulous, completely musical balances in the first solo in the scene and ended the whole scene with an immaculate triple pirouette. There was an amusing bit of business during and after the Czardas, led by Juan Rodriguez and Tamarin Stott, where, having rejected Franz, she makes him dance with Stott, only to become intensely jealous when Franz appears to be having too good a time with the very flirty Stott who in turn is furious when Franz and Swanilda are reconciled by the end of the dance.  Oliveira also gave the most flamboyant Spanish dance in Act II of the three casts that I saw.  I really like in this production how Swanilda and Franz are immediately sorry for the anguish they have caused Dr. Coppélius, at this performance an unrecognisable Daniel Kraus.  His endearing Coppélius looks and acts rather like the delightfully dotty inventor in “Back to the Future” with just a touch of Léonide Massine’s mad shoemaker in “The Red Shoes”.  This performance also marked the debuts of Shiori Kase as Dawn and Ksenia Ovsyanick as Prayer.  Fresh from her triumphant debut as Swanilda, Kase gave a delightfully sunny and secure performance of the Dawn solo.  Ovsyanick’s Prayer was delicate with a near-perfect sequence of arabesques penchées and was certainly the most spiritual of the three I saw. I also saw probably the most exquisite performance of the Waltz of the Hours that I have seen in this production (and I saw many in the 1980s, including the premiére).  The sequence where each girl performs one slow pirouette beginning and ending from a kneel was flawless.  Such quality dancing almost at the end of a very long and arduous season (the company has two performances in Spain this week before their holiday) is to be greatly admired and appreciated.  A word of appreciation too for the dancers who are the automata in Act II, and deservedly are mentioned by name on the cast sheet, who manage to hold their positions for ages before they are allowed to move – their stillness would give any of the street performers prolific in Covent Garden a run for their money!  Coppélia herself was performed by Desirée Ballantyne, taking a night off from her Holland Park commitment, and was wonderfully mechanical, her head-turning after being oiled being the best of the three I saw. The audience on Friday evening was wildly enthusiastic, with many in the stalls giving the company a richly deserved standing ovation.

 

At the Saturday matinée, the lovely Erina Takahashi danced Swanilda with her customary verve and gorgeous technique. She was partnered by Fernando Bufala who gave a very good account of himself technically and artistically although lacks the power and brio of Gruzdyev.  Other changes of cast from Friday included Stina Quagebeur very elegantly leading the Czardas, and what a pleasure it is to see both this and the Mazurka performed with such style and enthusiasm by the whole company. Adela Ramirez, who had to dash off after the matinée to dance in the evening performance at Holland Park, danced the Dawn solo with great charm and Alison McWhinney brought a lovely serenity to the Prayer solo.

 

On Sunday afternoon, I saw Shiori Kase’s second performance as Swanilda which was a delight, being technically secure and with plenty of energy left for Act III which she sailed through with her customary sparkle and soubrette charm.  Yonah Acosta was a very cheeky Franz although characterisation does seem to elude him when performing the technically challenging solos but hopefully this will improve with experience.  Michael Coleman’s Dr. Coppélius was a twinkly old man with immaculate comic timing (I remember his ebullient Colas at Covent Garden having the same sense of mischief) and it was lovely to see the whole company applauding him at the curtain call. Crystal Costa bounded through the Dawn solo with a smile that lit up the whole theatre.  Because there is no musical break between Dawn and Prayer, the dancer does not usually receive applause immediately after the solo but the audience broke into spontaneous applause for Costa which lasted well into the first minute of Prayer which luckily is just a walk on in this production.  Prayer was danced by Laurretta Summerscales with great finesse. Coppelia was the delightful Jung Ah Choi who managed to put herself together again to dance “Work” in Act III! 

 

All the performances I saw were danced with such zest by the whole company that, like Janet’s comment previously, at the end of each performance I felt that the dancers, and the fantastic orchestra,  would continue to party long after the audience had gone home!

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Was at the Sunday matinee - and thoroughly enjoyed the show. Shiori Kase was a joy to watch as Swanilda, as indeed was the whole company. Before this performance I'd been a bit of a doubter about Coppelia as a ballet - these doubts were swept away and then some.

 

Glorious ENB!

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I echo the praise for Shiori as Swanilda yesterday; she was technically brilliant and secure, and was a joy to watch. If I had to choose a favourite part, it would be the dance of the Hours. Beautiful to watch and really superbly danced.

 

They seemed to be filming yesterday afternoon's performance; anyone know why?

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