Review - Coppélia - Stanislavsky Ballet at The Coliseum

Last night I went to see the much-talked about Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet production of Roland Petit’s 1975 version of Coppélia at The Coliseum. The evening I chose to attend the show may have had a calmer atmosphere compared to the previous night which had a certain sensational bad boy in its cast.

Semyon Velichko played Frantz, the boy enraptured by the life-like doll of the ballet’s title, with carefree charm and boyish swagger embodied in his leaps and facial expressions. As the real true love of Frantz, Natalia Somova’s Swanhilda was portrayed with sassiness and wit in her attempt to win back the silly doll-obsessed Frantz. The interactions between the two principles were both sexy and farcical.

The group dances of dashing soldiers and alluring pink and baby blue-clad girls, straight off a Quality Street tin, were well-executed with quirky comic movements included (lots of jerky knees and elbows) and playful flirtations bubbling here and there.

Like a Tim Burton character thrown into the middle of a saccharine Disney picture, Anton Domashev’s Coppelius was at turns creepy and funny with a touch of sadness (creating a doll to have as a companion? He’s clearly very lonely and unhappy!). Domashev resembles a silent film era character that could have lent itself to either slapstick comedy or horror. The macabre of Coppelius is cranked up a notch with his first dance with a corpse-like doll, before Swanhilda pretends to be said doll coming to life, and intoxicating Frantz with spiked Champagne. 

 The set is stark yet bold without being imposing - bare white pillars and walls with arched entrances depicts the town. The set really comes into its own in the second act which takes place in Dr Coppelius toyshop with a giant dresser filled with disembodied dolls’ limbs moving frantically while the drawers beneath light up, opening and closing - a delightfully gothic touch.

Petit’s Coppélia is a flurry of sweetness and airiness with a pantomime feel which was enjoyable and uplifting. However, contrary to the intentionally joyous end with the marriage of the young lovers, I was drawn more the the melancholy of Dr Coppelius with his lifeless doll hanging limp in his arms. This was the lasting image that I was left with which contradicted the cuteness of the rest of the production. It is like the paradox of an Abba song - cheerful music, heartbreaking lyrics.


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