Review of Sleeping Beauty, with Rojo and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2011

Colourful new costumes with Oliver Messel’s original designs updated by Peter Farmer, fine ensemble dancing and some excellent solos, what more could one want? Well … coordinating the conducting better with the dancing would help.

Tamara Rojo in Act II, all photos Bill Cooper

During the first interval, a lady from the audience told me she thought only one of the fairy variations in the Prologue was well danced, and that was Emma Maguire in the fifth variation (Fairy of the Golden Vine). Certainly she showed enormous poise and control, as she did in the pas-de-trois from Act III, along with fine performances by Hikaru Kobayashi and Kenta Kura. But what went wrong with the other variations in the Prologue? The audience was lukewarm about the first four (Yuhui Choe, Helen Crawford, Hikaru Kobayashi, Samantha Raine), but I’m inclined to blame the conducting, which I found sluggish. After Itziar Mendizabal followed with the Lilac Fairy’s variation, the young men dance, but the music was terribly plodding, which makes it hard for the dancers. Good performances on stage however, as the king throws the invitation list to the floor, realising his master of ceremonies has omitted Carabosse, and then on she came with her ghastly attendants. Genesia Rosato was a fine Carabosse, but as her coach exited something crashed. A bit of extra excitement was welcome and the audience around me were amused.

Back for Act I with the delightful Tamara Rojo as Princess Aurora, and Gary Avis showing fine stage presence as the English prince. Pity about the ragged brass at the start of Act I, and pity about the Christopher Wheeldon’s new choreography for the Garland Dance, which is supposed to be a waltz. Problems with the brass reappeared in Act II, but Boris Gruzin’s conducting warmed up later in that Act, and the journey to the sleeping realm came over effectively.

Rojo and Bonelli in Act III

Act III contained some very fine dancing: the pas-de-trois of Florestan and his Sisters by Kobayashi, Kura and Maguire, as I mentioned earlier, and Yuhui Choe was a brilliant Princess Florine with her partner Alexander Campbell as the Bluebird. They danced beautifully together, and Red Riding Hood and the Wolf were wittily portrayed by Leanne Cope and Johannes Stepanek, with the little trees that now come on stage adding a nice touch. As the principal characters, Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli formed a fine partnership and came over as real fairy tale characters, he the perfect dark haired prince and she showing the reserve befitting a princess who is manipulated by forces outside her immediate control.

This revamped production with its new costumes is certainly worth seeing, though I hope the Company can make more rehearsal time available for putting the orchestra together with the dancers.

Performances with various casts continue until December 21 — for details click here.

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