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'Coppélia' - Royal Opera House

Coppélia, with its magnificent choreography, colourful set design and beautiful costumes, is a performance anyone will very much enjoy, premiering on the night of Thanksgiving.

First performed in 1870 at the Paris Opera, Coppélia is a Romantic ballet centred on the ideals of a woman back in the 19th century. Historically speaking, the ballet has undergone many adaptations and remakes, and currently stands as one of the most performed ballets at the Paris Opera. Its most recent adaptation at the Royal Opera House was produced and choreographed by Ninette de Valois, featuring Francesca Hayward (as Swanilda), Alexander Campbell (as Franz), and Gary Avis (as Dr Coppélius).

Coppelia. Francesca Hayward as Swanilda and Gary Avis as Dr Coppelius. (c) ROH, 2019. Photographed by Bill Cooper. (3)

Divided into three acts, each thirty minutes long, Coppélia tells the story of a mechanical doll, Coppélia, constructed by Dr Coppélius, so lifelike that it fools all of his fellow townspeople, including Franz, the fiancé of Swanilda. Franz becomes infatuated with the doll, thinking it to be an ideal of a perfect woman. Swanilda, upon discovering this, plots a break-in to Dr Coppélius' house, fuelled by jealousy - unbeknownst to her, Franz has decided to do the just the same. Franz is caught by Coppélius, who later drugs him in a diabolical attempt to breathe life into his darling Coppélia. Swanilda, in her efforts to save Franz, disguises herself as the doll, coming to life and staging a distraction for the two to make their escape. Coppélius, who at first is heartbroken and angered upon realising their deception, is later placated by a gift of gold from the town's Duke. Swanilda and Franz meanwhile make amends, and are happily married.

The ballet is composed of many parts, which are particularly impressive - one notable example being Franz and Swanilda's pas de deux. This particular scene further stands out thanks to Osbert Lancaster's beautiful costumes; Swanilda's delicately ornamented white, lace tutu is finished with subtle silver glitter, and is complemented by the more modest black and white outfit worn by Franz. The performance itself is characterised by minimalism, yet this is exactly its standout quality. Their pas de deux contrasts with the more diverse, detailed costumes and set design of the corps de ballet, characterised by a multitude of colours, textures and vibrant lighting. Their scenes featured dozens of dancers performing several complex sequences that all stood out on their own, despite being performed simultaneously.

Coppelia. Artists of The Royal Ballet. (c) ROH, 2019. Photographed by Bill Cooper. (2)

Blending a nearly 150-year-old tradition and core elements of classical ballet, Coppélia is beautifully characterised by minimalism and simplicity, at the same time showcasing the inventiveness of its set design and costumes. The ballet does not fail to amaze, and is an absolute must-see for those who enjoy ballet in all its forms.

Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor

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