With a creepy old man, faithless hero and everyone constantly getting drunk, Coppélia is a funny old ballet. It is, however, amply redeemed by Delibes’ score and by plenty of opportunities for the lead couple to show their talents.
Shiori Kase, making her debut as Swanilda, was a revelation. She conducted all her solos with brightness, panache and tremendous musicality. Equally, she’s developed a winning stage presence and convincing acting skills – she’s funny when required and oozes charm. An absolutely fabulous debut.
Kase and her Franz, Yonah Acosta (also working his debut in the role), make a fine couple – he too has learned how to dominate a stage without losing self-control and their youthful enthusiasm was contagious. His leaps and jumps are magnificent and he really knows how to raise a laugh – his entrance with the ladder was inexplicably hilarious.
They seemed less comfortable when dancing with each other, however. They looked uncertain at times and their grand pas in the final act was a touching rather than electrifying experience. That dynamism will surely come with time but there’s no denying the potential in their partnership.
Around them, the company were also in great shape. The big corps numbers were tight, energetic and full of personality, Michael Coleman made Dr Coppélius as sympathetic a character as he’s ever likely to be and there were some beautifully drawn characterisations across all the roles (indeed, for the lady sat behind me, Juan Rodríguez’s innkeeper was apparently the highlight of the night).
Desmond Heeley’s production still looks lovely, especially the costumes, and the orchestra of the English National Ballet sounded terrific under Gavin Sutherland. Assuming you can take its nonsensical story with the pinch of salt it deserves, this Coppélia is a pretty good night out.
Coppélia runs at the Coliseum until 27 July 2014 before moving on to Peralda, Manchester, Southampton, Oxford and Bristol. More information and tickets can be found on the English National Ballet website.