Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Version and Direction: Victor Smirnov-Golovanov
Artistic Director: Ludmila Nerubashenko
Choreographer: Marius Petipa
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
There is a certain magic in the air when a ballet is performed, and an evening at the ballet seems to hark back to that previous era of classic theatrical opulence and privilege. To properly partake in the experience, one feels the need to dress up nicely, speak quietly, and sip wine from cut glass. But maybe things have moved on, and Sleeping Beauty performed by Moscow City Ballet at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre is a much more relaxed affair. Nevertheless, this is a truly classical version of the much-loved tale – with a live orchestra – worthy of comparison to many of the top level dance companies.
The story of Sleeping Beauty needs no introduction, famous as it is from childhood fairytales. It is the second ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, working in collaboration with his long-time associate, choreographer Marius Pepita. Its first performance was in January 1890 in St Petersburg, Russia. The audience of the time was impressed, and its appeal has lived on, well over a century later. It is one of those works that most people profess to know no music from, but there are a surprising number of pieces that are instantly familiar.
Probably the main component of ballet is its visual impact, and this performance at the Lyceum does not disappoint. Curtains and gauzes provide the scenery and backdrops, but they are so well created that they appear to be three-dimensional. The palace is grand with seemingly stone pillars, elaborate wall-hangings and fountains; the forest is lush and green, and the ballroom has ornate statues and candles. Credit must be given to costume mistress Elisaveta Dvorkina for the beautiful and colourful array of costumes throughout. Each tutu on stage is a work of art: there is every colour of the rainbow out there and en masse they are breathtaking. Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood are instantly recognisable as visitors passing through court, and the male couriers are stunning in tights and embossed tunics (maybe Aurora’s hopeful suitors’ unbelievable hairpiece/hat combinations and saggy Ugg-style boots could have been avoided however) The evil Carabosse, played by a man in a long gown, cape and false hooked nose, has a very threatening presence, accentuated by his entourage of evil spirits clad all in black. But there’s no need for anyone to worry, his nastiness is amply cancelled out by the pretty and kind Lilac Fairy, clad as her name suggests in a beautiful lilac tutu with silver trim.
The Moscow City Ballet is an entourage of talented young dancers who perform internationally. If there is a criticism of the troupe it is that there is a marked variance in ability between the principals and the other members of the company. Every individual on stage is an excellent dancer, but the prima ballerina and principal male outshine them all. On the occasion of the review in Sheffield Lilia Orekhova danced Princess Aurora, and she is absolutely exquisite. She is supple and incredibly flexible, with a fragile air about her that makes her seem unreal. Her fixed pirouette en pointe with one leg fixed vertically to the skies seems to go on forever, and it appears totally effortless to her. Daniil Orlov who dances Prince Florimund can practically span his partner’s waist with his two hands, she is so slender. As a couple, these two do somewhat steal the show, but they set the bar high for the rest of the company to aspire to.
Sleeping Beauty makes for a wonderful uplifting evening out, just sit back and enjoy the pure spectacle of it. The Prologue and Act One in the first half of the performance carry the majority of the story: Acts Two and Three are rather long with seemingly repeated dances. However, this does not detract from the magic of the performance, and it is a show that will delight audiences as it tours throughout the country.
Runs until Saturday 12 January 2019 | Image: Contributed