Have loved ballet ever since seeing 'Swan Lake' at six years old. 'The Sleeping Beauty' (along with Tchaikovsky's other two ballets 'Swan Lake' and 'The Nutcracker') is among the greats in the ballet repertoire. This may sound very clichéd, but to me it's a very deserved distinction for a ballet with a timeless story, characters that one won't forget in the long run and Tchaikovsky's magnificent music.
Once this production of 'The Sleeping Beauty' is released on DVD, it in my mind will be a strong contender for the best version available. It is certainly one of my favourite productions of 'The Sleeping Beauty', one of my favourite productions of any ballet and of the Royal Opera House Live Cinema transmissions for me 'The Sleeping Beauty' is in the top 5. A much needed remedy after 'Il Trovatore' left a bad taste in my mouth (almost as much as 'Guillaume Tell' did). It is a true beauty of a production in every sense and is very likely to leave even the most cynical of viewers spellbound.
Visually, the production is gorgeous, one of the most visually beautiful and ideal productions of 'The Sleeping Beauty' personally seen. The costumes are colourfully lavish, with the one for the King and Queen, Aurora and Carabosse standing out, and the settings alone are like stepping into a fairy-tale, a feeling you should have with 'The Sleeping Beauty'. Lighting is also fabulous, both opulent and atmospheric.
Choreographically, it's nigh-on perfect. Not only is the choreography intimate and graceful (Rose Adagio, Bluebird variation and the fairy dances) as well as witty (Puss in Boots and the White Cat, Red Riding Hood) and suspenseful (the entrance of Carabosse and the finale of Act 1), the storytelling is always cohesive and the character relationships and essence of the story never gets lost. The dancing of it has so much warmth and personality, none of it is clinical, cold or over-thought.
Musically, it's very much the same. The orchestra do the music justice with controlled legato lines, soaring lyricism, poignant pathos, haunting intensity and rousing stylishness. The conducting lets the drama breathe and nuanced while also giving it urgency and intensity and it is accommodating.
Dancing and the performances are some of the best and uniformly superb of any viewed production of 'The Sleeping Beauty'. Particularly worthy of praise are Marianela Nunez's stunningly enchanting, peerlessly danced and expressively acted Aurora (one of the most challenging roles in the ballet repertoire and she makes the notoriously difficult Rose Adagio look effortless). An exquisitely danced, charming and powerfully charismatic Prince in Vadim Muntagirov, who is the perfect and sympathetically trusting dance partner and the chemistry between him and Nunez was pure magic. And the near-definitive Lilac Fairy of Claire Calvert, what was done with the character was a revelation with the character rarely having had that much complexity before.
Kristen McNally has a whale of a time as Carabosse, playing with gleeful relish and a sinister presence, one will be scared of her and wouldn't want to mess with her. The King and Queen are performed with great dignity and emotion. The rest of the fairies are beautifully cast, especially those for the Woodland Glade and the Golden Vine. The Puss in Boots and White Cat, Bluebird and Princess Florine and Red Riding Hood and Wolf variations are performed with grace and wit, while the Apotheosis really rouses the spirits.
Overall, utterly beautiful and spellbinding, fellow 'Sleeping Beauty' fans must not miss it if you didn't catch it when it was broadcast in cinemas earlier this year and once it becomes available. One of the easiest 10/10s given in recent memory. Bethany Cox