Coppelia by Varna International Ballet

The tale of two lovers, a magician toymaker, and his life-like doll kicks of the three night visit of the Varna International Ballet to Norwich’s Theatre Royal.

Coppélia is often seen as a light comic ballet, despite essentially containing an attempted murder and a woman still marrying her fiancé despite him attempting to ditch her for a doll, but in the world of ballet that is, I suppose, reasonably innocuous.

This production definitely emphasises the comedy, with some sweet early laughs as the local men and women flirt and dance. Dr Coppelius (played by Federico Farina) is also portrayed more as a drunken cheeky chappy than a scheming wizard.

Sadly there are fewer sparkles in the dancing or the music. While the leads Nahia Barcena (playing Swanilda) and Vittorio Scolè (Franz) on the whole perform their solos strongly they do not appear entirely comfortable together.

There are also too many occasions when the corp and orchestra are out of step: in the first half especially, the action was noticeably stilted with both seemingly waiting for each other.

Lora Marinvoa’s design is basic, with a projected backdrop not making up for the wobbly villagers houses – most noticeably the first appearance of the doll (Andrea Conforti) is masked by an ill-conceived attic window design, that blocks the view of much of the audience. By contrast, the simple device of flashing spotlights in the toymaker’s house scene is a rare piece of inventiveness that shows what can be achieved with a little care.

The company is rotating between four shows on the current tour and it seems to be attempting too much, and being spread thinly as a result. There are glimpses of great ballet here; one suspects they might create more magic by focusing on a single production.

  • Varna International Ballet returns to Norwich Theatre Royal with Giselle on February 7, 2023 and Swan Lake on February 8, 2023.