Sleeping Beauty with Cuthbertson and Polunin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2011

All images by Johan Persson

This performance, broadcast by live cinema relay, had a super cast along with plenty of musical excitement from the conductor and the orchestra, right from the very beginning of the Prologue. As we start, at the christening of the baby princess, those wonderful fairy variations were danced by Yuhui Choe, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Fumi Kaneko, Iohna Loots, and Emma Maguire. Yuhui Choe in particular was wonderfully soft and musical in the first variation, and Emma Maguire was superbly musical in the fifth (pointy) variation. Claire Calvert was the Lilac fairy, and Kristen McNally a defiantly dramatic Carabosse. She was super.

Cuthbertson as Aurora in Act III

In Act I Lauren Cuthberston was delightful as the young Princess Aurora, and Nehemiah Kish showed strong stage presence as the English Prince who plays the main supporting role among the four suitors. The Rose Adagio that she performs with them came over entirely naturally, and Cuthbertson danced beautifully in her solo just before Carabosse enters to give her a spindle and ruin the party. Lovely acting from Cuthberston as she collapses and the English Prince catches her.

Polunin as the prince in Act II


In Act II, Sergei Polunin as the Prince demonstrated real excitement at the moment the Lilac fairy showed him the vision of Aurora, and the musical accompaniment for the journey to the sleeping forest came through with great charm. When the prince awakened the sleeping princess the music rang forth with huge power — congratulations to Boris Gruzin in the orchestra pit. Then as we swept forward into Act III, with barely a break for the curtain to close, the wedding party moved into full swing with Florestan and his sisters dancing to Tchaikovsky’s gold, silver, sapphire and diamond variations. Emma Maguire and Melissa Hamilton danced peerlessly in this pas-de-trois, supported by Dawid Trzensimiech who seemed to be on a different beat to the ladies, though his technique was excellent. As Princess Florine and the Bluebird, Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell were wonderful, their partnering outstanding, and their solos superb, but where was the applause? The audience was remarkably subdued throughout the evening, though they finally woke up for the grand pas-de-deux with Polunin and Cuthbertson, who were excellent.

Comparing this performance with the one I saw on October 31, the music was better this time by orders of magnitude. Since it was the same conductor, Boris Gruzin, the only explanation can be rehearsals. This is the big problem with the ballet at Covent Garden — rehearsal time. But what a pleasure to be at such a fine performance, and those costumes, recently updated and recreated are glorious.

This is a Sleeping Beauty to be proud of, and performances in the present run continue until December 21 — for details click here.

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