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The Sleeping Beauty

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Considering how many cooks have stirred the broth of this work since its creation in Imperial Russia in 1890 it is a miracle that it has survived with such integrity. Regarded as the greatest classical ballet ever conceived there is certainly more dancing in it than any number of Giselles, Coppelias or Nutcrackers. The current Royal Ballet production is a remodelling of the 1946 version that Sadler’s Wells Ballet created for the reopening of The Opera House after the war.

Designed by Oliver Messel and choreographed by Frederick Ashton on Petipa’s original, it has been subsequently tinkered with by Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon. It is a monumental achievement.

The costumes – suggesting three different eras to accommodate the passage of time – are elaborate, highly coloured confections of silk, velvet and lace. The steps are pliant but regal, characterful but musical. Lauren Cuthbertson’s Aurora is not as girly as some I have seen but her authority is never in question. She is in control of the stage from her entrance in Act II, performing the fiendish balancing acts of the Rose Adagio with pinpoint precision. She is well partnered by Matthew Golding replacing injured Rupert Pennefather, the Canadian dancer whose strength and elevation compensate for his starchy acting and flatulent expression. Injury also provided a last minute opportunity for Francesca Hayward, so fresh and vital in the recent Rhapsody, whose hand-fluttering delivery of Fairy of the Song Bird was equally delightful. And I have rarely seen a Carabosse so scornfully contemptuous as Elizabeth McGorian. High praise, too, for the violinist and cellist for their notable solo contributions throughout. Tchaikovsky would have been proud.

Neil Norman

  • Royal Opera House, London
  • February 22-April 9
  • Composer: Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
  • Directors: Monica Mason, Christopher Newton
  • Choreographers: Marius Petipa, Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell, Christopher Wheeldon
  • Producer: The Royal Ballet
  • Cast includes: Lauren Cuthbertson, Matthew Golding, Melissa Hamilton, Thomas Whitehead, Elizabeth McGorian, Gary Avis, Christina Arestis, Akane Takada, James Hay
  • Running time: 3hrs
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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.