Sleeping Beauty, Royal Ballet, ROH, February 2017

The second run of Sleeping Beauty this season started in grand style with Marianela Nuñez as Princess Aurora and Vadim Muntagirov as her prince, and a cast close to that for the live cinema relay at the end of the month.

Nuñez as Aurora, ROH/ Johan Persson

In Act I Nuñez showed the thrill of a teenager at her own coming out party, partnered with deft authority and almost one-handed control of her pirouettes, by Gary Avis as the English prince. Wonderful. And the Rose adagio elicited the first cheers from the audience. Her musicality in the Act II vision scenes, and in her Act III partnership with Muntagirov lent an ethereal quality to her dancing, and Muntagirov’s solos, with brilliantly executed coupé jetés, invested his noble character with the cutting edge to win the sleeping princess.

Muntagirov as Prince Florimund, ROH/ Tristram Kenton

The whole company was equally full of vigour, and the Prologue started in fine form with Alastair Marriott as a gloriously effete Master of Ceremonies, Cattalabutte. His well-deserved come-uppance, delivered by Kristen McNally’s viciously elegant Carabosse, added just the right touch after five fairies have delivered their gifts, starting with the outstanding Yuhui Choe giving the gift of beauty. The fairy variations were all danced with charm and precision, followed by Claire Calvert as an attractive Lilac Fairy, and the ensemble work was beautiful throughout.

Calvert as Lilac Fairy, ROH/ Johan Persson

Act III was a feast of fine dancing and characterisation with Valentino Zucchetti leading Helen Crawford and Yasmine Naghdi in a marvellous pas-de-trois. Nimble footwork by Ms Crawford, followed by wit and lightness on their feet by Paul Kay and Leticia Stock as Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat. Wonderfully fluid body movements by Marcelino Sambé as the Bluebird, partnering Anna Rose O’Sullivan, who danced very prettily as Princess Florine. Charm and a frisson of danger from Gemma Pitchley-Gale and Eric Underwood as Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, before Nuñez and Muntagirov took the stage with great élan in their final pas-de-deux.

This production, with original designs by Oliver Messel beautifully adapted by Peter Farmer and superbly lit by Mark Jonathan, is fairy tale stage magic. Only the orchestra under the baton of music director Koen Kessels seemed to lack freshness, playing as if on automatic pilot, but in fairness there was probably little time for new rehearsals, and although Kessels seemed not to be watching Nuñez carefully enough in her Act I solo, this is a minor quibble in a superb evening’s dancing.

Performances with various casts continue until March 14, including a live cinema relay on February 28 — for details click here.

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