COPPÉLIA | London, Royal Opera House

A light-hearted and heart-warming tale, Coppélia is one of the most popular ballets (and a great alternative to The Nutcraker this Christmas).  This Royal Ballet production is a revival of Ninette de Valois’s 1954 version, aiming to remind people of the beauty of historic story ballets. The challenge in Valois’s choreography is that it’s hard to make something so simple look so good: the cast does a good job here.

Centred around a life-size dancing doll, Coppélia, the ballet follows the story of young lovers Franz (Alexander Campbell) and Swanilda (also Francesca Hayward), who both become obsessed with Coppélia. Out of the three acts, the most eventful and enjoyable is undoubtedly the second, set in the workshop of Dr Coppelius (Gary Avis). With the dolls’ mesmerising mechanical movements, and genuinely hilarious exchanges between Swanilda and Coppélius, the second act encloses the very soul of this production.

Campbell and Hayward give especially strong performances, but the biggest shout-out goes to Avis as the puppet-master.  There are moments where, while there’s a lot happening on stage, one’s eyes are simply glued to Avis’s expressive movements, which manage to make him sinister and comical at the same time.

Conductor Barry Wordsworth leads the orchestra in lively and charming rendition of Delibes’ score. Funny, cheeky, and romantic, this Coppélia has much to offer, including a few good laughs, and a rare blending of gracefulness and irreverence.

Coppélia comes to life in cinemas next week.

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