For the first time in many years, the Royal Ballet is not performing its Nutcracker during this festive season. (Don’t worry — the English National Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet are staging their versions at other venues.)
Instead, Royal Opera House audiences can enjoy another classic —Coppélia — which features Delibes’ wonderful music and choreography by the company’s founder, Dame Ninette de Valois. The story is sweet and simple: lifesize doll is mistaken for a girl by a young man; after his real girlfriend causes mayhem in the toymaker’s workshop, order is restored for the sunniest of happy endings.
The ballet offers a feast of glorious dancing, from the famous Act I waltz and mazurka to Swanilda’s Act III solo variation. You will recognise many of the hummable tunes.
Francesca Hayward is a winning Swanilda, able to tackle the fast and furious footwork with ease, and showing a nice sense of fun in the workshop scene. What a realistic doll she makes: jiggly and floppy in turns.
As her fiancé Franz, Alexander Campbell is a cheeky chappy, whose head is momentarily turned by Coppélia. He drew gasps in his Act III solo, making light of the most difficult jumps, while Gary Avis was a convincing Dr Coppelius, bringing both comedy and pathos to the role.
The company is on top form, with the corps de ballet giving it their all in the group dances — the Act One czardas was even better than the mazurka, and the Waltz of the Hours in the final act was a joy to watch.
Praise, too, to Fumi Kaneko for her sparkling variation, and Melissa Hamilton, who brought a lovely sense of serenity to her Prayer solo .
If you are looking for ideal, festival family fare, the RoH’s Coppélia makes a perfect Chanukah treat.