Review: Coppelia, Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre, Ipswich, Thursday, March 5

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Coppelia

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Coppelia - Credit: Archant

A night of “Accomplished dancing and some very glittery costumes”.

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Coppelia

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Coppelia - Credit: Archant

Like a flock of migrating swans, the ballet company from Krasnoyarsk in Siberia is back in the UK for its regular winter sojourn. And what welcome visitors they are.

For their opening night in Ipswich they brought their brightly coloured production of the sunny, comedy ballet Coppélia, with its memorable Delibes score played with great gusto by the 28-strong orchestra.

Set in 19th Century Galicia (part of modern-day Poland) a land of merry-making, mazurka-dancing peasants, the ballet tells the story of everyday country folk, Swanilda, the prettiest girl in the village, and her beau with the wandering eye, Franz. His head has been turned by the mysterious girl, the Coppélia of the title, who sits all day in the window of toymaker Dr Coppélius’ house. Franz is not the sharpest tool in the box, though, as he doesn’t realise the girl is only a puppet.

Breaking into Coppélius’ workshop, Swanilda soon discovers the truth, and plays a practical joke on the Doctor by taking his puppet’s place and making him believe she’s come alive. In one of the ballet’s few moments of pathos, Coppélius, finally discovers the deception, the lifeless Coppélia doll falling like a discarded mannequin on to the floor of his shop.


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Story-telling is largely forgotten in the second half of the ballet. The marriage of Swanilda and Franz is celebrated with the Burgomeister presenting the happy couple with a giant key, though it’s not clear what this signifies – to their new starter home perhaps? A now reconciled Dr Coppélius appears with his creation (Yana Tugaeva), who performs a delightful solo with plenty of hopping on point. The whole act is really just an excuse for a contest to see who can jump the highest and spin the fastest and the most times. The last challenge is won hands down by the lovely Natalia Bobrova as Swanilda. She brings a delightful sense of playfulness to the role, and matches this with a strong technique. Ivan Karnaukhov, as Franz, partners her securely and has good elevation in his solos, though he is required to do little in the way of acting other than to look love-struck.

The weak link is Dr Coppélius himself. A gift of a part for an actor/dancer, this delusional old man should be, by turns, comical and sinister. His attempt to inject Franz’s life force into his inanimate doll has echoes of Dr Frankenstein. Unfortunately, Alexander Kuimov underplays the macabre character, though he isn’t helped by a bad black wig and the fussy steps given him by the choreographers.

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An enjoyable evening, with great music, accomplished dancing and some very glittery costumes. A pity the story-telling sometimes got lost in all the twirling tulle, and that there wasn’t more of a nod towards the dark Tales of Hoffman on which the ballet is based.

JAMES HAYWARD

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