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 Post subject: Royal Ballet "The Sleeping Beauty" 2006
PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 2:58 am 
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The Sleeping Beauty
By John Percival for The Stage

The idea behind the Royal Ballet’s new production of The Sleeping Beauty was excellent. It is the greatest of all the old Russian ballets. Completeness and history both demand its staging, so let’s restore the best version they ever had, that triumphed internationally for 25 years from 1946 with more than 1100 performances. The Royal Ballet here come close to the real thing. Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music is no problem and thanks to Ninette de Valois there is a good treatment of Petipa’s magnificent choreography with some fitting supplementation by Frederick Ashton.

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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 4:08 am 
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Clement Crisp in the FT has this to say:

"There is a new fairy at the christening. She appears in the Royal Ballet’s “reconstruction” of The Sleeping Beauty staging by Ninette de Valois, which opened the Royal Opera House in February 1946, and was revealed to us on Monday night.

It is Fairy Compromise, a less than magical being who has so often brought her dubious gifts to Royal Ballet initiatives."

Full review here:

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/ec695d5a-e5c1-11da-b309-0000779e2340.html


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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 12:34 pm 
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Sleeping Beauty
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

So this season, in its third, crunch attempt to get Beauty right, the Royal has decided to return to that 1946 benchmark, the choreographic text that director Ninette de Valois got from the St Petersburg notation, and to the designs of Oliver Messel.

... Initially their smooth, painterly classicism looks almost anachronistic, especially when compared with the more fluidly modern style of Peter Farmer's reworked designs for the second act. Yet it takes only moments to see Messel's vision as a homecoming for the ballet. The fairytale palace he imagined 60 years ago is still magical, opulent and luminous, a fantasy of columns and arches set against long, misty perspectives.

published: May 17, 2006
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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 12:59 pm 
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For London dance watchers, if you could see either the Sleeping Beauty Auroras of Cojocaru, Nunez, and Lamb, or Manon with Cojocaru, Yanowsky, and Rojo, which one would you see? I'm trying to decide on which US east coast engagement of the Royal Ballet to see, and each program has its attractions.

--Andre


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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 1:02 pm 
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The Sleeping Beauty
by DEBRA CRANE for the Times

On opening night, Alina Cojocaru’s Aurora was the ballet’s radiant centrepiece, charming, in control and filled with a palpable delight in every pretty step. The Rose Adagio worked a treat; even Ovsyanikov, whose conducting elsewhere was taken at a lick, slowed to accommodate Cojocaru’s wishes.

published: May 17, 2006
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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 2:25 am 
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Oliver Messel - Designer of The Sleeping Beauty
By Sarah C. Woodcock for Dancing Times

Few stage designs are so powerful that they become iconic, encapsulating not just the spirit of the production, but also of its time. Such were Oliver Messel’s designs for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty in 1946, which are about to live again when The Royal Ballet reconstructs the production in its 75th anniversary season

When Oliver Messel was born in 1904 there were no stage designers as we understand the term. In the 19th century, craftsman scene painters devised the sets while the costumes were in the hands of specialist designers; as both worked in the prevailing realistic style the join didn’t show.

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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 4:29 am 
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A Beauty that truly dazzles
by LUKE JENNINGS for the Observer

Somehow, despite their obviously European inspiration, the Messel sets hanging at Covent Garden offer a very English enchantment. The Prologue takes place in a baroque pavilion borrowed from Watteau's Les Plaisirs du Bal, but set against a landscape redolent of the South Downs.

published: May 21, 2006
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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 5:01 am 
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A 38-year snooze? Most refreshing...
by JENNY GILBERT for the Independent

Directors and designers will re-think a 100-year-old dance classic for the same reason other people re-vamp their sitting rooms, and they're just as prone to expensive mistakes. So what to make of the Royal Ballet's decision to re-create a production of The Sleeping Beauty that ran from 1946 to 1968? This is hardly about catching the zeitgeist. It's a public admission that its two previous Beauties, new in 1994 and 2003, were so vehemently disliked that a drastic remedy was required, however retrograde.

published: May 21, 2006
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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 5:59 am 
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Just to put the record straight, Luke Jennings says in his review:

Quote:
Natalia Makarova's pretty but heartless 2001 production


This is inaccurate. Makarova's version, which had a lot that was commendable, was first performed by the RB in 2003.


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PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2006 9:42 am 
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Royal Ballet – ‘Sleeping Beauty'

By Ana Abad-Carles

May 18, 2006 -- London


The new/old “Sleeping Beauty” the Royal Ballet has produced for their 75th Anniversary has all the ingredients that seem to make up the basis of tradition: something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, pink, lilac and all the pastel colours of the rainbow…

The idea to revive Oliver Messel’s production from 1946 was interesting in a way. There were strong elements in that staging that seemed to be needed after Natalia Makarova’s ill advised production in 2003 (substituting the hideous one Anthony Dowell had produced before her). The need to revive a choreographic text that was so strongly associated with the company obviously influenced the decision to go back to the production that had marked the beginning of a golden era for the company. However, choreographic archaeology seldom works on the stage and the resulting production the Royal Ballet presented recently had all the hit and miss elements that can be expected from such attempts.

While it is true that the scenery followed Messel’s originals, the same cannot be said of the costumes, created by Peter Farmer. They lack distinction and vividness, something that the old Messel production definitely had. Though not all the original costumes would be agreeable to the eye nowadays, there were certainly some that could still have served their purpose. Even if the cut of the costumes had been altered to suit the tastes of today’s audiences, the vivid colours of the originals could have been retained. Instead of that, what we see is a collection of pastel colours that, though unobstrusive to the choreography, add little colour to a wonderfully chromatic score.

As for the choreographic text, it is true that the Royal Ballet has gone back to their old reading of the choreography and this is something we all appreciate. However, and this is my biggest objection to the new production, it is not just the steps that made up the Royal Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty” unique, especially in clear opposition to the Russian versions, but the whole rhythm and tempo of the musical reading. The English “Beauty” used to be danced in allegro and staccatto rhythm, in total contrast with the adagio, legato reading of the Russian versions. What we have now is English choreographic text performed with Russian tempos and it does not work.

As a case in point, the Prologue has lost its unique dramatic impulse. The Fairies’ variations are performed at much slower tempos than they used to be. Not only that, the performances I saw were far from distinctive both in character and technical achievement. The Lilac Fairy variation used to be a favourite of mine to illustrate the differences in tempo and character of both Russian and English version. As it was performed on the night I attended, the differences were almost non existent. Carabosse’s entrance and monologue, then dialogue with the Lilac Fairy lacked the dramatic impact that the company used to excel at, especially when Mason herself played the evil character. Hers was a lesson in clarity of purpose, self explanatory mime and dramatic coherence. As it appears now, those elements are missing. Elizabeth McGorian was good, but not outstanding, and my memories of the old Royal Ballet’s Carabosse are of outstanding interpretations.

On the night I attended, Tamara Rojo danced Princess Aurora. She danced the Rose Adagio beautifully, but then she lost all sense of characterisation and seemed to be determined to make a point about the fact that this ballet is about the danse d’ecole. In fact she made her point so strongly that she forgot to smile until the last bars of the Coda in Act III. She performed the choreography beautifully, but there was no soul in it, which is surprising, given that Rojo is renowned for her dramatic qualities. Moreover, we all know now that technique has changed and the number of pirouettes ballerinas can achieve in their solos has increased... still I would appreciate if the ballerinas would stick to the amount of music Tchaykowsky offers them instead of demanding halts in the music to fit in their multiple turns.

Rojo’s Prince was Federico Bonelli, who performed correctly, but was once again not very interested in dramatic detail.

Mainly, the new production flows, but it does not produce the dramatic excitement that the old versions used to have.

The Vision Scene shows again inconsistencies in its reconstruction. While we get one of the court dances that used to be omitted, we have now lost the elegant Minuet and Farandole. The Prince’s solo that Ashton choreographed has been revived, though, and if only for that, it was worth watching.

As for the new elements, Christopher Wheeldon has choreographed the Garland Dance, though I much preferred the Ashton version that featured in the de Valois version prior to Dowell’s. Ashton’s dance was a joy to watch, simple and effective in preparing the audience for Aurora’s entrance. Wheeldon’s is just too ambitious in its brevity and does not add anything to the scene.

Dowell’s contribution to the new version is in Carabosse’s attendants dance and the court dances in the third act. Again, not remarkable additions, but unobstrusive at least.

The best dancing in the evening came from Laura Morera as Princess Florine in the Bluebird Pas de Deux. She alone seemed to understand what the unique style that the English used to have was all about. She was respectful with the tempos, she made dramatic sense and she performed her choreographic text with sincerity and understanding.

Another welcome restoration came with the Florestan Pas de Trois, though the performance by Isabelle McKeekan, David Makhateli and Lauren Cuthbertson was somehow dispirited. I regretted the substitution of the wonderful Saphire variation with the old Diamond one, but I guess it is difficult to please everybody.

The new/old production of the Royal Ballet is a brave attempt at restoring a tradition and identity that the company seemed to have lost. However, it fails in its integrity by not going deeper into the intrinsic values of a choreographic text that goes beyond the performance of certain steps. It is a relief to see the new generation of Royal Ballet dancers performing the old choreography, but without the meaning that gave those steps their life, the resulting end falls somehow short.


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PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2006 2:11 pm 
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Many thanks for this detailed review, Ana. Shame about the costumes - I strill haven´t forgiven Peter Farmer for his costume designs for the Kirov "Manon" and others, which prettify the production, so that it lost much of its impact.

Laura Morera is a fine dancer, never giving less than 100% and with intelligence and artistry that often take my breath away.


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 Post subject: Oliver Messel Designs
PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 4:43 am 
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I have to say that I don’t get this Oliver Messel link at all. Yes, there is a similarity in the backdrops, which were in any case inspired by the sets Leon Bakst created for Diaghilev, but everything else strikes me as different. Okay, I’ll admit that its many years now since I saw the original Messel production, but records of it remain both on film and in books and having done a bit of basic checking I think I’m right to question why this new production is being touted as ‘after Oliver Messel’

Was the aim to go back to the original design ideas or to reinstate the choreographic frame of that production? If it was simply to recreate the designs then I have to say that hasn’t happened. Oliver Messel, unlike ballet designers of today, wasn’t scared of colour and filled the stage with costumes that didn’t in any way conform to the limited palette that Peter Farmer uses today. Go to any function where a large number of women are present and they will dress in every colour of the rainbow and shades thereof. It’s personal taste that dictates their choices. Go back a few centuries and the peacock males also had colourful clothing to add to the mix and that’s how I remember the old Messel production – as a swirl of colour. Individual costumes may have been a little over the top for today’s taste; but many were so beautiful, so inspired, that they could be regarded as works of art. Take the Lilac Fairy’s tutu, it wasn’t lilac: it was white and decorated with flowers of the deep pink variety; because lilac is just as often white as mauve and Messel’s inspiration was the flower and not the colour. The detail on those tutu’s was wonderful and although I’d be lying if I said I could clearly remember all of them I do still remember the appliqué gold cornucopia that decorated the tutu of the Fairy of the Golden Vine and the bold vertical lines of dark green leaves against the white background of the Woodland Glades Fairy’s tutu. The tutus Farmer has designed are also beautiful and I strongly advise taking your binoculars along to appreciate them fully, but the attractive detailing doesn’t show up beyond the front of the stalls.

Whatever the pros and cons of this production are, from the design point of view I found the links to Oliver Messel tenuous to say the least.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 9:42 am 
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I have to say I was very disappointed not to see some of the costumes, especially those for Aurora and her friends in Act I. It seems a bit incongruous to credit costumes to a designer (or after a designer), present totally different ones and then have the real costume in the very foyer of the theatre! I was looking at Fonteyn's tutu in total disbelief... it was so beautiful and the new one is so ordinary.

Personally, I wish they had revived the production that the company used to have before Dowell's. It was beautiful, unobstrusive with the choreography, effective for entrances and exits, and elegant... In fact, so much so that several companies have actually bought it, after the Royal Ballet ditched it. Maybe it's nostalgia, but I did love that production in all its aspects...


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 10:09 am 
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This is the 7th production of Sleeping Beauty by the RB that I've seen, out of interest they were:

1. "Oliver Messel" production

2. Ashton/Wright "medieval" production

3. MacMillan production (first try with Peter Farmer designs)

4. Ninette de Valois production

5. Dowell production

6. Natalia Makarova production

7. New "after Messel" production.

Productions 1 and 4 enjoyed the longest stays in the rep of about 20 years each.

My personal favourite was the unusual Ashton/Wright production that contained all the elements of a fairy tale. It was greatly loved by audiences but not highly regarded by the critics. Apart from that, I'll agree with Ana that the de Valois production had the most merit.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:26 am 
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Quote:
The Sleeping Beauty, Royal Opera House, London
by CLEMENT CRISP for the Financial Times

I have seen three Auroras since the opening night. Sarah Lamb’s debut brought an exemplary reading: beautiful in manners, with no selfish display and, instead, a respect for style, text, atmosphere: here was an Aurora-in-the-making, gently radiant, and not to be faulted in her assumption of the role. Tamara Rojo decided that the role was about blatant virtuosity. So multiple pirouettes, long-drawn-out balances, the choreography used as display cabinet. Dazzling, of course, but not what one might hope from this very distinguished artist. And then Marianela Nuñez, sunlit, soaring through the dance, phrasing like an angel, adorably musical, an Aurora among the finest the Royal Ballet has shown.

published: June 5, 2006
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