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The Royal Ballet
'The Sleeping Beauty'
by Ana Abad-Carles
5 May 2008 -- Royal Opera House, London
The Royal Ballet presented The Sleeping Beauty as part of their regular season at the Royal Opera House, and I went to see the performance led by Lauren Cuthbertson and Rupert Pennefather.
The present Royal Ballet production is far from perfect, but it makes interesting viewing if the dancers in it bring something to the choreographic text. The costumes, despite all the claims of these being based on the original Messel production, are totally undistinguished. It’s a shame, as the Royal Ballet used to have beautiful productions not so long ago. The tempi that were characteristic of the English version of this classic have not returned either, so what we have left is a version that somehow resembles the “good old days” without really daring to instil them back into the company.
The company started off well. The Fairies in the Prologue all danced with assurance, though faster tempos for some of them (especially the Fairy of the Song Bird) would definitely help in establishing who these important ladies and their gifts for Princess Aurora are. Carabosse’s part has suffered partly because the interpretations are not as imposing as they used to be and partly because of very bad costuming and make up. Did the designer go to Camden Market on a Sunday and simply strolled around the Goth areas? Monica Mason was an impressive Carabosse and it seems a shame that she is not passing down her reading of the role to the younger dancers. Deirdre Chapman was good and her mime strong, but the lack of presence of her counterpart, the Lilac Fairy as danced by Laura McCulloch, deprived her of some real impact in her scenes.
The good news of the evening was Lauren Cuthbertson’s performance of Princess Aurora. An up and coming dancer, gaining confidence in each of her appearances on stage, her portrayal of Aurora certainly showed promise. Her entrance and Rose Adagio had radiance, which is vital in this role. And though she still needs to polish aspects of her interpretation and try to create more layers to the role as a whole, it was most reassuring to see a young ballerina stepping into this part full of confidence and joy. Her technique is assured and as this ballet does not need breathtaking technique, but crystal pure phrasing and placing, she brought charm and elegance in good measure.
Her Prince, Rupert Pennefather, was technically correct, though he did not add anything to his role as a character. His variation, created by Ashton, was danced like a class exercise instead of an expression of loneliness and youthful angst.
The Bluebird pas de deux was danced by Yuhui Choe and Andrej Uspenski. Uspenski brought beautiful jumps and elegance to the role, but Choe was rather insipid as Princess Florine. Once again, her variation looked like a class exercise in what seems to be a trend in ballet performances. Her coda was clean and pretty, but lacked the joy and exhilaration that this role requires.
The corps was good in most scenes, though the vision scene did not have the clarity one should expect. It was overall a good performance with some interesting young dancers coming up the ranks and taking on the roles with confidence.
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