Katherine Kanter posted this interesting review in another forum and I have move it here. Thanks a lot for this Katherine:
AURORA – LEGS DOWN !
Royal Opera House, April 21st 2003
(matinée and evening performances)
In respect of Natalia Makarova’s new “Beauty” for the Royal, there are already several hundred printed and Internet pages available to readers worldwide, so I shall be brief. The question, to someone who has only seen one or two other “Beauties” at the Royal, is, does this one work, as theatre ? In a nutshell, no.
But first, the Good: Miss Makarova, or perhaps her répétiteurs, have effected a great change in the corps de ballet, or rather in its feminine side, as little was seen of the men from start to finish (I’m beginning to understand why someone did an all-male Swan Lake). The “Royal Ballet clod-hoppers”, that ghastly shuffling footwork, was gone, lines were tense and neat, the upper body had definition. That, alone, was a relief.
On to the Bad. Miss Makarova’s idea (ideal ?) of the ballet, is, like Balanchine, Woman. It is all very well to speak of bringing something up to date, but to put on a cast of, figuratively speaking, several thousand women and two men, is a little dated, is it not ? Oh-so feminine and fussy, from the first Spinatelli drop curtain, covered in blousy old roses, to that twee business with boy Cupid, of which the less said, the better.
No force, no fire. At the end of the day, this “Beauty” cloys like an over-large blancmange.
A major frustration is how Miss Makarova deals with the score, that is, after all, one of the finest ever written for the ballet. In the Prologue, a distinctly adult and masculine passage in the music, that cries out for WEIGHT from the corps de ballet – we are served up tiny children prancing about in a galop. At every point where the music demands attack, vigour, Miss Makarova has reined in her dancers, or put children dancing where we could finally have got something for the men to do, and so it goes.
To illustrate: Catalabutte should mime, and mince. We do NOT want him doing pas de bourrée. That detracts from the music, draws away its force. At the opening of Act I, the three girls with the spindle should NOT be dancing. They should mime. With all that hopping and skipping about, we are not in the slightest moved when the King has the girls taken off to be executed. And Carabosse should NOT be tossing off grand jeté. Carabossse should either mime - or risk being ludicrous. And Makarova’s Carabosse is ludicrous.
So frivolous, one might almost say, tone-deaf, an attitude to the music, becomes blatant in the way Miss Makarova has coached her étoiles. I never before realised, until I saw Alina Cojocaru carefully wreck all irony, all delicacy, all phrasing in the music, by constantly thwacking that leg onto the ear, the degree to which this business with picking up the leg, flies right in the face of the music. I found myself pining for the lovely Elisabeth Maurin, as Miss Cojocaru shewed us one boring arabesque – high, and one boring arabesque penché – 180 degrees. Musical phrasing is expressed by one’s eyes, one’s facial muscles, one’s épaulement, one’s hands. Throw those legs up there, and it’s gone. Why Miss Makarova has allowed her to get away with it, I do not know. It is not a question of style, it is technique, it is musicality – or it is NOT. Overall, there is little to say of Miss Cojocaru’s portrayal, enjoy as one did her mastery of the connecting step, a point our own étoile Laetitia Pujol might want to ponder.
As Prince Désiré, Mr. Putrov’s actual dancing, if one can disregard a lack of épaulement, was impeccable, although his partnering, at this stage, is still immature and somewhat autistic. Despite the high extensions, and a clumsy Prince Désiré (Thiago Soares), Tamara Rojo, one of the loveliest-looking women imaginable, was on an altogether different level as Aurora. A delightful characterisation, one that would deserve both a stronger Prince, and, above all, a production that makes dramatic sense.
Notable dancing from Laura Morera (excellent footwork), Sian Murphy, and Bethany Keating. As for Zenaida Yanowsky, seen as Carabosse at the matinéee, and as the Lilac Fairy in the evening, what is noteworthy is not her great height, but rather a most refined and intriguing artistic personality.