The Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty: a gift that goes on giving

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Tchaikovsky, The Sleeping Beauty: Dancers of the Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House Orchestra / Simon Hewett (conductor). Performance of 16.1.2020 (directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon) and reviewed as a live streamed performance in the #OurHouseToYourHouse series. (JO’D)

Fumi Kaneko (Princess Aurora) and Federico Bonelli (Prince Florimund)

Production:
Choreography – Marius Petipa
Additional choreography – Anthony Dowell, Frederick Ashton and Christopher Wheeldon
Production – Monica Mason and Christopher Newton (after Ninette de Valois and Nicholas Sergeyev)
Music – Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Original designer – Oliver Messel
Additional designs – Peter Farmer
Lighting designer – Mark Jonathan
Staging – Christopher Carr

Cast included:
Princess Aurora – Fumi Kaneko
Prince Florimund – Federico Bonelli
Carabosse – Kristen McNally
Lilac Fairy – Gina Storm-Jensen
Princess Florine – Yasmine Naghdi
The Bluebird – Matthew Ball

From anxious uncertainty to established order, The Sleeping Beauty traces a musical journey that is intense even in this filmed version seen on a laptop screen. With its camera switching judiciously between close-up and full shot, the recording of a performance of the Petipa/Tchaikovsky ballet from earlier this year has Fumi Kaneko as Princess Aurora and Federico Bonelli as Prince Florimund. The production is from 2006 ‘after’ that of 1946 by Ninette de Valois and Nicholas Sergeyev with designs, many of them magical, by Oliver Messel.

Fumi Kaneko strikes a fine balance, in the Rose Adagio, between showing the challenge of the choreography and showing she can meet it; but I thought her better suited to the serious, solemn, even mournful version of herself that the Lilac Fairy (Gina Storm-Jensen) presents to Florimund in The Vision later on.

Federico Bonelli’s experience and stagecraft give weight to the character of Florimund, a man who appears to reject a ‘real’ woman, the Countess (Christina Arestis), for the sake of a personal quest into fantasy. Kaneko was a late replacement for Lauren Cuthbertson, and this possibly explains why Bonelli seemed to take his partner a little by surprise in three of the fish dives of the grand pas de deux. It would not be surprising if that were down to something tentative on her part; though by the time of the fourth, a happy understanding has been reached.

A ballet on the largest of scales, The Sleeping Beauty can be described as a gift that goes on giving. Among the gifts in this performance are the smiling ease of Cesar Corrales as a Cavalier, the delicacy of Romany Pajdak as the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain, the sparkle of Anna Rose O’Sullivan (an Aurora herself that season) as a Fairy of the Songbird who the unseen audience audibly cheered.

Kristen McNally, as the Wicked Fairy, Carabosse, is a dead ringer for Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. I particularly remember a most interesting Carabosse in 2017 from Hayley Forskitt prior to her departure from The Royal Ballet. Slim and fair, she looked more like a good fairy made bitter by experience than a fairy who was born to be bad.

Yasmine Naghdi, as Princess Florine, shows herself to be perhaps the most musical dancer of all. Courtiers in coffee-colour and pink dip graciously to left and right as they cross the stage on a Petipa diagonal. Even Christopher Wheeldon’s Garland Dance, which often seems cramped and not to make the best use of garlands, looks nice enough on a small screen.

Briefly introduced by the Director of The Royal Ballet, Kevin O’Hare, the recording contains no interval or backstage interviews. This allows the music to flow almost uninterruptedly. It flows across Aurora’s life, from christening to marriage, facing the possibility of death in the figure of Carabosse and her rats on the way. The resounding chords with which the music ends underline the seriousness of the ballet: order, rather than happiness, is what has been achieved. Florimund even looks rather stuck, sandwiched as he and Aurora are in a tableau vivant between her royal parents and the fairy tale characters in a court from a time that is a hundred years before his own.

The Sleeping Beauty is available free until 6 August in The Royal Opera House’s #OurHouseToYourHouse series.

John O’Dwyer

For more information about what is available from the Royal Opera House while there are no performances in the theatre click here.

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