All dolled up
Peter Wright’s production of Coppélia for Birmingham Royal Ballet is a fine looking thing. Peter Farmer’s scenery and costumes are extremely attractive and the whole thing is put together with a breezy cohesion. And when you have someone of the calibre of Céline Gittens gliding around on stage in the lead role, you’re really on to a good thing.
She’s a naturally elegant ballerina with a poise and grandeur that’s hard to resist. Swanilda’s no princess, however, so would Gittens be able to pick out her earthier qualities? Sure she could. She was whimsical, funny and extremely dangerous when throwing books around. The act II robotics weren’t a problem either; in short, she was a joy to watch.
She was aided very well by Tyrone Singleton as her beloved Franz. He grasped the knockabout humour with ease, was an exasperating flirt and his dancing was cheeky when required but otherwise strong and powerful. Together, he and Gittens have a seamless rapport and their grand pas was terrific.
The other main character, Dr Coppélius, is a tricky one to pull off; often sleazy and invariably unlovable. Somehow, through a gentler interpretation perhaps, Michael O’Hare managed to make him fairly sympathetic; a figure of loneliness rather than a manipulator of naivety.
The last act has no story to speak of but instead features the extravaganza of classical dancing that is the Festival of the Bell. It was all danced well but special mention goes to the long-limbed Yijing Zhang’s beautiful Prayer, William Bracewell’s very impressive Call to Arms, and the corps’ for the pretty arrangements that opened the act. Furthermore, the orchestra, freed from the confines of a pit and almost sitting in the front row, sounded great. It was a very enjoyable night.