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Coppelia Review – Ballet at Bristol Hippodrome



The Bristol Hippodrome

Tuesday 4th – Saturday 8th November 2014

This week I was very excited about going to see Coppélia, the first ballet I’ve seen in years. The boys, on the other hand, were not.

“I don’t like ballet”

“Really? When have you watched any ballet?”

“Uh, not sure, but I know I don’t like it and I don’t really want to come”

I certainly wasn’t going to take them if they weren’t keen as I think it’s important for them to realise how lucky they are to be regular theatre goers but after a conversation about how the skills of a ballet dancer might compare with those of a gymnast, my eight year old was sold.

I reminded my ten year old that some of his favourite shows like Starlight Express featured clever dancing and he decided he’d come after all but he wasn’t exactly jumping up and down at the prospect.

When we arrived I was surprised and disappointed to see a fair few empty seats around the theatre.

Instead of being in the pit, the orchestra was on the same level as us which meant that our row J seats were only three rows back. I felt immersed in high culture but quickly lowered the tone by passing the boys a drumstick – a lolly, not the musical instrument type. (Well, you wouldn’t want them to be those annoying people who rustle sweet wrappers during a live performance, would you?!).  The atmosphere felt electric as the audience applauded the conductor’s entrance. I had butterflies waiting for the ballet to start!


The ballet is performed over three Acts so there are two intervals.


A village
Swanilda, the burgomaster’s daughter  is engaged to be married to Franz. There’s a party atmosphere. The stage is full of bright twirling skirts and red boots.  The music is stirring and the villagers are drinking. Swanilda spends a toe-numbing amount of time on points.
The night before their wedding Swanilda becomes jealous when she finds her fiancé blowing kisses at a beautiful girl at the house of eccentric toymaker Dr Coppelius. Annoyed that the unknown girl is ignoring her friendly advances, Swanilda and her friends break into Dr Coppelius’s house to learn more about her.
My eight year old spends the whole act leaning forwards in his seat, trying to get a few inches closer to the action.


Dr Coppelius’s sinister workshop
The female intruders warily explore the dusty, smoky workshop and discover various automatons – including the mystery girl. Scooby Doo-esque knocking knees and funny facial expressions make us laugh. When the doctor returns, the girls all run away except Swanhilda who’s trapped in a cupboard. Dr Coppelius seizes Franz, who has also broken in, gets him drunk then wires him up to his precious doll and brings her to life.
The Coppélia doll moves intermittently and mechanically to begin with but then performs several punishing dances. Despite the conclusion of my own ballet career at the age of eight (as I was absolutely rubbish at it) I can appreciate how exhausting these lengthy dance sequences must be.
I glance across and both boys are glued to the stage.


Set in the village again.
The villagers assemble for the harvest festival and the wedding, taking it in turns to dance in a series of varying styles and groupings. This act is full of  ‘pomp and ceremony’. Floral wreaths and girls in golden dresses decorate the scene. At times a single ballerina dances, then couples, then a group of women and a group of men. There’s a feast of dancing on points by beaming girls, russian dancing by the men and a flirty dance by the bride.


The extent to which Léo Delibes’s artful score narrates the whole story and reflects its mood was innovative when it was written and still remarkable today. The music, dancing and facial expressions all combine to tell a story which a child (or an overtired mother) could follow. I hadn’t seen this ballet before and was surprised to discover that I was familiar with much of the beautifully played music. I was pleased to hear the huge, appreciative round of applause when the Orchestra of English National Ballet took their well deserved bows.


English National Ballet’s production is choreographed by Ronald Hynd. The ballet is varied and of course beautiful to watch. The eight year old noted that there were a lot of spins, to which I’d add that there were also a lot of points, leaps and vertical splits. Even during the applause at the end we’re witness to the most graceful bows I’ve ever seen!

Coppelia - English National Ballet at Bristol Hippodrome #bristolhippodrome #delibes #ballet #Coppelia


  • the comedy brought to us through facial expressions and actions
  • the colourful costumes and detailed set
  • the easy to follow story
  • the live performance of the stunning music
  • the beautifully choreographed and performed dancing – especially the automaton sequence


This is a great ballet for children as the story is easy to follow – acted out via hand and finger gestures, superb facial expressions and other body language. Each act is only around 3o minutes so retained the boys’ interest. It’s a fun performance with lovely comedy moments which spurred the audience to laugh out loud several times.


The lack of any dialogue means that you need to keep your eyes firmly on the action to follow the plot.

I’m very pleased the boys decided to come as they hardly took their eyes off the stage throughout. My ten year old acknowledged that although he hadn’t expected to like it, it was one of the best shows he’s seen. I would say it’s a great all rounder. Including my Mother, all three generations of us loved it. It’s clever, athletic, energetic, the music is memorable and the women’s costumes beautiful. We weren’t so enamoured of the flesh coloured tights on the men though!

I know ballet can be a really expensive option but tickets are quoted as starting at £11.90. If I had the chance to see this again I would jump at it.

Highly recommended.



The Bristol Hippodrome

Tuesday 4 November – Saturday 8 November 2014

Performances at 7.30pm (Thurs Mat at 2.30pm, Sat Mat at 2pm)

Tickets: £11.90 – £48.90. Concessions available at certain performances

0844 871 3012 or www.ballet.org.uk/coppelia



Principal casting and listings in detail:

Coppelia (in the order of Swanilda and Franz)

Tuesday 4 November – Shiori Kase and Yonah Acosta

Wednesday 5 November – Erina Takahashi and Fernando Bufala

Thursday 6 November (mat) – Laurretta Summerscales and Junor Souza

Thursday 6 November (eve) – Shiori Kase and Yonah Acosta

Friday 7 November – Elena Glurdjidze and Arionel Vargas

Saturday 8 November (mat) – Tamara Rojo and Yonah Acosta

Saturday 8 November (eve) – Laurretta Summerscales and Junor Souza



Calamity Jane



Rock of Ages

The Buddy Holly Story

Tonight’s the Night


Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Robin Cousins’ ICE

Dirty Dancing

West Side Story

Happy Days


Starlight Express




White Christmas



45 comments… add one
  • fritha 11/11/2014, 21:55

    I’ve never been to a ballet but would love to! x

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:13

      If you get the chance to, grab it Fritha!

  • agatapokutycka 09/11/2014, 21:35

    I’ve never seen a ballet, never… I plan to go one day… just unsure what should I pick for a first timer…

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:04

      Coppelia would be great for a first time visitor. It’s so easy to follow the story and very visual

  • Globalmouse 09/11/2014, 20:53

    We had tickets to go and see this but couldn’t make it…I’m even more disappointed now as it looks brilliant, great review.

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:11

      What a shame. Better luck next time Globalmouse

  • Sonya Cisco 09/11/2014, 12:42

    I was taken to see Coppelia as a little girl and was utterly enraptured!

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:12

      How fantastic. It’s the first time I saw it and although I really enjoyed it, it was perfect for the children.

  • Kara 08/11/2014, 12:20

    I hope to take Eliza to the ballet when she is old enough

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:10

      I hope you manage it soon Kara.

  • Louisa 07/11/2014, 19:50

    I’ve only ever watched ballet on tv but would love to watch it live in the theatre.

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:09

      The was superb Louisa. We were just a few feet away from the orchestra so completely immersed in the atmosphere.

  • Pinkoddy 07/11/2014, 19:49

    Sounds a wonderful production. I do love a good Ballet.

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:07

      Yes it’s a great production Pinkoddy

  • Polly 07/11/2014, 19:07

    looks great – I’ve never been to see a ballet!

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:07

      If you get the chance I’d definitely recommend it Polly

  • Rachel 07/11/2014, 15:41

    It looks like it will be a wonderful production, ive only ever seen The Nutcracker x

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:06

      It is fabulous. hanks for commenting Rachel

  • My Family Ties 07/11/2014, 12:03

    It looks like a wonderful production, I have yet to take my daughters to the ballet but really must make it a priority as the whole experience is a joy!

    • Jane Batt 11/11/2014, 23:05

      Yes I’m so glad we took the boys. They were glued to it!

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