Sleeping Beauty, English National Ballet, London Coliseum, Dec 2008Posted on 31 December 2008
The choreography was by Kenneth Macmillan after Petipa, but it was a disappointing evening with indifferent conducting by Gavin Sutherland. There was not the slightest comparison to Valery Gergiev’s magnificent concert performance at the Proms in the summer. It may be hard to bring out the excitement of the Rose Adagio in Act I when the conductor has to slow the music to suit the action on stage, but this problem does not apply to the journey to the Sleeping Kingdom in Act II where there is no dancing at all. Here one of the high points of the music failed utterly, and the same was true for almost every part of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score — the waltz in Act I, for instance, was just lost in a morass of correct notes played with no incision or feeling.
Having panned the conducting, what about the dancing? By far the best part of the evening was Andre Portasio’s superb performance of Carabosse — his stage presence was riveting and his arm movements well expressed his role as a witch exercising immense power. In the Prologue the fairy variations were well enough performed, and Adela Ramirez was particularly good in the final variation, but Jenna Lee was a very insipid lilac fairy. In Act I the Rose Adagio was disappointing, and the unknown prince who partnered Agnes Oaks, as princess Aurora, did a poor job. He looked nervous, and her pirouettes were all off centre. In Act II the conducting and the lilac fairy formed a fatally weak combination, and although Thomas Edur looked good as the prince, he has almost nothing to do here. Finally Act III fell pretty flat. Edur and Oaks were very fine in their pas-de-deux work, but in his solos Edur disappointed by marking some of Mcamillan’s steps, and it would be an understatement to say that the whole thing lacked fizz. The fairy variations were partly cut, Nicholas Reeves as the gold fairy lacked power, and is the Macmillan choreography really so weak here, or was it due to the cuts? The bluebird pas-de-deux was danced by Crystal Costa and Anton Lukovkin, and while he had some excellent jetés-en-tournant, his entrechat-six were not as well executed, and his upper body showed weakness. Carping aside, Andre Portasio stood out as a magnificent Carabosse, but even he couldn’t overcome the plodding work of the conductor, and that is what killed this performance. The dancers tried their best, but there was no sustained applause, and it was a sadly dull evening.