Coppelia, Royal Opera House, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Coppélia is one of the 19th century's bounciest ballets. In a repertory dominated by visions and enchanted princesses, here is a world of quarrelling lovers, of toys prancing into life, of cheery peasants who can't wait to rush into their national dances. Delibes' beguiling score lilts and sparkles, carrying the story along. This Royal Ballet production, by Ninette de Valois, is full of bright steps and mischief.

Like The Nutcracker, Coppélia is drawn from an ETA Hoffmann tale. Both ballets turn away from their creepy sources into something lighter and sunnier. When the villagers take Dr Coppélius's mechanical doll for a real girl, it's comic rather than unnerving. Swanilda and her friends are endearingly jumpy when they sneak into Coppélius's workshop, holding hands as they go through the door, but there are no lurking horrors here.

This revival has an enchanting Swanilda in Marianela Nuñez. This is a performance of great exuberance and great delicacy. In her third-act solo, she almost saunters up a diagonal of quick, brilliant steps, her quick feet playing with the music's pulse. Her upper-body dancing is sumptuous: one sideways bend was radiant.

If Nuñez finds warmth and comedy in the dancing, she also finds it in the drama. When her boyfriend, Franz, dances with another woman, Nuñez jumps on to a stool to get a better view. Still up there, she can't help responding to the music, her shoulders swinging. Climbing down to confront him, she tries to cool her cheeks by pressing her hands to them - then puffs them out again in crossness.

Thiago Soares is a stylish and high-spirited Franz. His dancing is clean and strong, and he's a sure, tender partner. William Tuckett's Dr Coppélius completes a marvellous cast. He makes the eccentricities both spontaneous and funny.

Osbert Lancaster's costumes are particularly fine, the bright colours mingling on stage: red boots, peasant blouses, embroidered aprons.

This was a joyful second show. The first matinée was stodgier, warming up after a stiff first act. Roberta Marquez makes a mischievous Swanilda, but her dancing, though strong, can lack fluency. The ballet is still funny, but it doesn't bubble over.

Coppélia is a perfect ballet for children. The young audience for this matinée was enchanted. Near me, one child purred with satisfaction when Marquez came sidling out of her hiding-place in the toy cupboard.

In rep to 4 November (020-7304 4000)

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