Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, April 2010

Sleeping Beauty is a glorious union of music and dance with Tchaikovski’s score matched by Petipa’s choreography, and Peter Wright’s production for the Birmingham Royal Ballet does it full justice. The designs by Philip Prowse are excellent — the gold of the sets, and the black in some of the male costumes give a rich feel without the overwhelming pastel shades found in some other productions. The Prologue comes off very well, with the Lilac Fairy’s variation being taken by the sixth of six fairies, named here as Beauty, Honour, Modesty, Song, Temperament, and Joy. Their short tutus are all of similar colours, while the Lilac Fairy herself, gracefully portrayed by Andrea Tredinnick, is in a long tutu befitting a more calming and nurturing role. All the soloists did well, and Marion Tait as Carabosse was superbly musical as usual. Worth noting also that David Morse as Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies, showed fine stage presence and suitable angst, mortified by his omission of Carabosse from the guest list to the Christening.

Marion Tait as Carabosse, photo Bill Cooper

This production has some wonderful moments, and I particularly liked the way Carabosse reappears in Act I as a shrouded old woman, apparently willing to be arrested after giving Aurora the spindle, yet suddenly throwing off her disguise and creating havoc. Her disappearance in mid-air is very effective thanks to excellent lighting by Mark Jonathan. In fact the lighting was part of the glory of this production, giving a contrast between good and evil, particularly when both are on stage at the same time in the form of the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse. Also in Act I there was some slightly unfriendly competition between two of the four princes, played by Tyrone Singleton and Robert Parker, and it’s little vignettes like this that help to make the production come alive.

Nao Sakuma as Aurora, photo Bill Cooper

Nao Sakuma danced well as Aurora, and was very hansomely partnered in the later acts by Iain Mackay. He did a fine job as her prince, stepping in for Chi Cao, who was unable to get back into the country due to the recent absence of air flights. It was the first time they had danced these roles together, and they did it perfectly. This is a company that obviously works well together, producing excellent soloists and a fine corps de ballet. In Act III, Mathias Dingman and Alexander Campbell were brilliantly matched in the pas-de-quatre, as were Carol-Anne Millar and Angela Paul, who showed magnificent sparkle. Joseph Caley and Momoko Hirata were excellent in the Bluebird pas-de-deux, and I loved Sonia Aguilar as the White Cat — she was utterly charming.

If you want to see Sleeping Beauty, this production is terrific, and musically it was better than the recent run by the Royal Ballet. Paul Murphy conducted and drew exciting sounds from the orchestra, making the journey to the enchanted wood in Act II sound . . . well, enchanting. The choreography too, at that point, is delightful, and now includes the Awakening pas-de-deux.

Performances continue until Saturday, 24th April.

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