The story of Coppélia is one that lightens the heart. It is one of the only surviving ballets from the 19th Century and after seeing it performed by the English National Ballet at the Mayflower Theatre I can see why it has lasted through the ages. First performed in 1870, a tense time as the Franco-Prussian War broke out that year, the ballet provided contemporary audiences an escape from the tragedies of reality. Coppélia is so light, funny, and beautifully performed that modern audiences experience the same escapism when watching.
Before embarking into the detail of the piece I must take a moment to inform you of the spectacular English National Ballet Orchestra. Musical Director Gavin Sutherland leads a team of the county’s top musicians who boast experience in all forms of music making. The music is a vital part in any ballet, it is the core to which the dancers rely on. This is all the more relevant in Coppélia as the delicate embellishments accompany everything on stage right down to the activity in the peripherals away from the leads.
Coppélia is a comedy at it’s heart with the quite ridiculous story being as light-hearted as they come. The stunning ballerina, Erina Takahashi as Swanilda, enchanted the audience by bringing the character to life. Elegance combined with a cheeky hint of mischief meant that Takahashi bought the principle lead role to life in the most endearing fashion. Alongside her was Fernando Bufalá as Franz the fickle, on and off love interest of Swanilda. His incredible talent and grace stunned the audience in his solos. Every leap across the stage was done with such precision and delicacy.
The show would not have been as endearing as it was without the help of an awe-inspiring set and fantastic costumes. The set was straight out of a fairy tale with it’s intricate patterns and carefully placed flowers. This paired with the beautifully elaborate costumes worn by the dancers lifted the performance into the realms of the magical. Coppélia is a fairy tale in the most fantastic of settings though the story itself is flecked with moments of darkness – the town-square bullying by a group of village youths of the cranky inventor Dr Coppélius, and the village girls breaking into his shack for example. Despite these moments that came across to me as cheeky rather than malicious, Coppélia is the most light-hearted of romps and suitable for all the family.
For more information on Coppélia and the English National Ballet head to their website here.