Sleeping Beauty is a classically mesmerizing ballet piece and a reminder of childhood nostalgia through a world-renowned fairy tale. The ballet is a story of hope and love conquering over evil which Tchaikovsky’s magical music score of harps and strings recreated, combining grandeur and fairy dust into a wonderful masterpiece. Marius Petipa’s choreography is astounding, following the music precisely from every hand gesture to every turn, allowing the dancers to show off their true brilliance to a wistful audience. In addition, every detail is significant from all storyland characters, dancers and non-dancers, from King Florestan XXIV, acted by Christopher Saunders, to Cattalabutte (Alastair Marriott) whose miming adds to a cleverly thought out ensemble creating what we see at the Royal Ballet today. With the choreography and musical changes made by Frederick Ashton, Antony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon over time, it has managed to retain its world-class status as one of the greatest ballets in history.
The Royal Ballet manages to implement a timeless quality to the ballet and it was originally Oliver Messel who designed the 1946 production to which the charming décor, flamboyant costumes and mesmerizing staging owes its credit. The Royal Ballet has left the production relatively unchanged in this sense, to keep the tradition as part of their signature heritage.Darcell Bussel, one of the Royal Ballet’s own ballerinas, hosted the live presentation that followed a host of historical footage of the production and interviews with the ballet dancers and production directors including Kevin O’ Hare, and Alexander Agadhanov, one of the principal coaches.
The prologue is an opulent gathering with elaborate pastel costumes introducing the individual personalities of the adorable six fairies. Canari qui chante was perfectly handled by Francesca Hayward who showed us an impish canary who hovered and vibrated her hands from behind her back to the twittering of piccolo and flute. Violente, or the tempestuous fairy, danced by Elizabeth Harrod presented a fiery passion through darted pliés, finger variations and alternating her arms from one side to the other. Laura McCulloch, as the Lilac Fairy, flowed amiably across the stage, whilst Carrabossa, re-lived through Kristen McNally, showed a prettier evil fairy that prior productions would have portrayed as more grotesque. Nevertheless McNally managed to achieve a malificent performance with exaggerated gestures with the help of her devilish rats.
The corps de ballet during the Garland Waltz in Act 1 is an idyllic scene where our principal ballerina, Lamb, makes her debut. During an interview, Agadzhanov said how technically challenging Lamb’s part is as it is technically artistic and repetitive at the same time. She has to retain an ‘effervescent’ quality when she employs her moves but at this performance it was a rather shaky start as she found difficulty finding her balance with the four princes twirling her slowly in full circle. However, she still captivated the audience through a violin solo as part of the famous Rose Adagio. Not only does Lamb look like a young and vulnerable Princess Aurora, who is 16 years old in the fairytale, her 90-degree arabesques, series of spirals and accurately timed moments of arrival were engaging. Her leaps and steps backwards presenting a state of delirium when her finger is pricked by a spindle are sweet yet terrifying at the same time.
The handsome red haired McRae enters in Act 2 playing a charming prince who pines and longs for something new and mysterious. Yet, it is in Act 3 where he is at his prime and shows us a ferocious and electrifying performance during the solo adagio. He confidently makes classically difficult ballet moves look effortless including the low sauts de basque. It is a thrill to watch him as he spins ravishingly faster and faster which won him the loudest applause for the night.
McRae had the loudest applause for the night
The Sumptuous Wedding in Act 3 showcases the skills of all storyland characters. Florestan and his two sisters, performed by James Hay, Elizabeth Harrod and Beatriz Stix-Brunell were exemplary and Yuhui Choe, as the Princess Florine was a smiling diamond. A change of tone was delivered by the playful, paw scratching and hip swaying Sabina Westcombe and Ryoichi Hirano who performed as the entertaining Puss-in-boots and White Cat. The final act ended with the energy and harmony between McRae and Lamb that was replicated in their swopping fish dives at the Grand Pas De Deux that proved to be a spellbinding partnership.
Yuhui Choe – Smiling Diamond
Throughout the night, an excited audience was tweeting from across the world from as far as Portugal, France, Milan and Madrid. ‘Spectacular’ and ‘Belissimo’ were the mentioned key words on twitter followed by McRae’s and Lamb’s names. A special mention should be given to Mark Jonathan and Christopher Carr who managed to convey the Panorama scene in Act 2 by cleverly coordinating the stage and successfully executing a gentle, thick and smoke-like mist to recreate the ‘cloud of unknowing.’ Unfortunately for us at the Vue Piccadilly, we lost 2 minutes’ footage of the final Apotheosis but irrespective of that, it was pure mystical genius we were listening to while we waited to see the grand finale.