Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography: Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, Peter Wright
Director: David Bintley
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
One of the stars in the firmament of the Birmingham Royal Ballet company, their production of The Sleeping Beauty, first staged by the company in 2010, is one of the best. Not surprisingly, it remains an important part of their repertory, and is, to my mind, on a par with legendary earlier productions performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House.
The time-honoured setting in all its splendour takes us back to the opulence of Imperial Russia in all its glory. The original fairy-tale, with its underlying theme of the force of good pitted against the force of evil, is danced out: a beautiful Princess pricks her finger and, placed under a curse by the wicked fairy Carabosse, falls into a deep sleep from which she can only be awakened by a kiss from a Prince who falls in love with her.
Unlike Peter Wright’s Nutcracker and Swan Lake, his Sleeping Beauty, danced to Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score and performed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under their conductor Paul Murphy, is faithful in the main to the original choreography created by Marius Petipa during the 1918 revolution in Russia. Wright has made some additions in his production, most noticeably, the pas de deux at the end of Act II, when the Prince awakens the Princess with a kiss – a spell-binding moment which fits seamlessly into the whole.
Momoko Hirata, trained in Japan and at the Royal Ballet School, danced the role of Princess Aurora on opening night in Cardiff. A diminutive figure, Hirata has an ethereal quality about her; bringing a vulnerability to the role, the grace and flexibility of her arm movements being particularly noteworthy. Her performance of the Rose Adagio – one of the most difficult roles in classical ballet – is brilliant and breath-taking.
Partnering her, Mathias Dingman is a handsome Prince Florimund and performs well, being on hand when needed to support Hirata in some of the most technically demanding en pointe steps in the pas de deux in Act III and coping well with the elevation in his solo.
Delia Matthews gives us an elegant and gracious Lilac Fairy (the force for good, aka the Fairy Godmother who makes it all comer right in the end), Gowned in lace with sleeves draping almost to the floor, Matthews is a Lilac Fairy with pedigree – there is more than a touch of class about the way in which she glides about the stage. As her opposite number, the wicked Carabosse, the evil force hell-bent on mischief, Samara Downs glitters with venom. The greater part of the requirement for this role is mime, and Downs leaves us in no doubt whatsoever of Carabosse’s nasty intentions. Born onto the stage on high in a chariot carried by her black-clad and hatted minions (a nod to the witches’ coven in Macbeth?) this Carabosse is enough to give the nervous nightmares.
There are some great performances too from individual soloists and artists of the BRB, with Alys Shee stepping in to take over as the Fairy of Joy from Celine Gittens who was unwell. A clutch of fairy tale characters makes their appearance in the wedding celebration of the Prince and Princess which forms the final act. As the wedding celebrations draw to a close, the curtain falls on a glittering conclusion to this, one of the best-loved classical ballets, performed here with outstanding expertise.
Runs until Saturday 17 March 2018 | Image: Bill Cooper