Michael O'Hare as Dr Coppélius with, here, Elisha Willis as Swanilda pretending to be the doll Coppélia. Picture: Andrew Ross.


Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


When Nao Sakuma is at her imperious best than God is in his heaven and all is well in the world - despite the Brexit bumbling and political pantomime around us.

Add to that another seemingly effortless performance from Joseph Caley, who grows in stature each time he appears, and the result is a magical night of delight.

Not that it started that way. The opening act sees Nao Sakuma’s Swanilda trying to attract the attention of Coppélia, who she thinks is a new neighbour but is in fact a mechanical doll created by inventor and would be magician Dr Coppélius.

She is not best pleased when her betrothed Franz, danced by Caley, making the same mistake, gets a response after the good doctor, unnoticed, winds up his doll and sets her in motion.


Nao Sakuma as Swanilda. Picture: David Polston

To confuse matters further along comes a passing band of dancing gypsies – as they do - and the sexy Daria Stanciulescu who turns Franz’s head again, with somewhat more seductive dances than Swanilda’s more bucolic offerings, which of course gives Swanilda yet more ammunition to fire at Franz.

It is amusing, bright and cheerful, Sakuma and Caley were masterful and the dancing was what we have come to expect from BRB.

As the act ends Swanhilda and friends have found the key to the doctor’s house and so go exploring looking for the doll, meanwhile Franz has the same idea and breaks in through a balcony door.

It had been good so far, although there had been times in ensemble dances when synchronisation was perhaps a little awry, but good as the act had been that indefinable spark to lift it beyond that seemed to be missing.

Come the second act and not so much a spark as a forest fire arrived in the shape of Sakuma and Michael O’Hare as Dr Coppélius.


Joseph Caley as Franz soaring above the bell given to the village by the duke.

Picture: Roy Smiljanic

The friends escape when the doc returns and then when Franz appears he is drugged by the doc who has a Dr Frankenstein moment with the idea of transferring the life force of Franz into his doll.

Except Swanilda has done a switch, taking the place of the doll, leading to a very funny dance between the doc and what he thinks is his doll, who he delightedly believes is being animated by his magic.

Suddenly the ballet is on another plane; O’Hare has made quite a name for himself in these cameo roles and here he is superb, funny, mildly sinister, eccentric and finally sad, and while we know Sakuma is magnificent in classical roles in the likes of Swan Lake she is also a delight in comedy roles with an infectious sense of fun and, far beyond her dance timing, she shows a great sense of comedy timing as she jerks her way around the stage.

The final act brings in Father Time, played by Rory Mackay, who was already well used to calling time in Act 1 as the innkeeper. Suitably bearded and ancient he arrives with a giant bell donated to the village by the Duke, who is also handing out gifts to a betrothed couple, and then the all happy again Franz and Swanilda.

The festivities give a chance for impressive party pieces from Céline Gittens as Dawn and Delia Mathews as Prayer as well as outstanding solos and a glorious pas de deux from Caley and Sakuma.

This 1995 Peter Wright production is timeless with Peter Farmer’s set and costumes, 22 years on, still as fresh and sumptuous as ever with Peter Teigen’s lighting bring gaiety or atmosphere and always substance to every scene while Léo Delibes’ wonderful music is interpreted quite beautifully by the always marvellous Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by music director Koen Kessels.

Finally a mention for Emilia Rouanet Feliuas as. It is not easy to sit motionless like a doll and she did it without moving a muscle. Not a massive part, but an important one. Coppélia is one of the most popular ballets in the BRB repertoire. It is light, fun, has an easy to follow story and Sir Peter’s version is a sheer delight. To 17-06-17

Roger Clarke



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