BWW Reviews: Ballet in Cinema Presents Bolshoi Ballet's SLEEPING BEAUTY
As I was leaving the theater after watching a live Bolshoi Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty, the purple fairy of civility appeared and asked to speak with me. As we could not find a restaurant fit for royalty, we adjourned to a nearby Dunkin' Donuts and sat down to chat. The following is a live transcription of our talk.
Purple Fairy (PF): I see you're frowning. Is something wrong?
Barnett Serchuk (Me): Yes, I've just seen a production of the Bolshoi's Ballet Sleeping Beauty. As Cole Porter wrote in one of his songs, "it's the nuts."
PF: Since we've been having a round of Sound of Music fever, we should start at the very beginning. What can you tell me about the production?
Me: Let me start with the tempos, or tempi. I began to wonder if I was attending a ballet or a funeral mass.
PF: On the slow side?
Me: You're being kind. They squeezed every ounce of juice, sparkle and joy from the ballet. Nothing moved, it staggered and crept. You felt like taking a shotgun and putting the ballet out of its misery.
PF: I think you expected a faster version. I know you are very fond of the Previn and Dorati recordings. Did you expect the ballet to move at a fast clip?
Me: There's no reason why Sleeping Beauty can't be taken at the speeds on these recordings. I'm not asking the ballet to be taken at the speed of lightning, but it should move along. After all, Tchaikovsky and Petipa wrote it as collaboration. Did they have a funeral mass in mind? I recently saw a production of Rosenkavalier and the conductor took the final trio so slowly that the singers looked breathless and enervated by the time they finished. Did you ever hear Nickolaus Harnoncourt conduct the Mozart-Da Ponte operas? I have. I've only listened to them once, and I only made it through the halfway mark on Magic Flute. Don't even bother watching the DVDs. They're sleep inducing
PF: Was it the choreography?
Me: It was billed as "choreography by Marius Petipa' revised (1973) Yuri Grigorovich," and probably others contributed, maybe Susan Stroman and Jerry Mitchell. .Grigorovich cut music, re-fashioned dances and made it into a tedious bore. I know the Bolshoi is having problems, but can't someone take a fresh look and transform this beast into a beauty. It deserves far better than this. Can't they invite Christopher Wheeldon over? He's been everywhere else.
PF: What about the dancers?
Svetlana Zakahrova as Aurora and David Hallbreg as the Prince were beyond reproach. Exceptional dancers. Maria Allash as the Lilac fairy showed good extensions and a beautiful lyricism, but she was hampered by the tempos. Denis Savin played Carabaosse wearing an ugly red wig that would have frightened Moira Shearer and miming to no effect whatsoever. I don't understand. Isn't there anyone who can devise proper mime for Carabosse to show what will happen when Aurora's grows up? Now that Monica Mason has retired, why don't they ask her to come over and do some coaching? Why don't they ask me? I could devise some appropriate mime.
PF: Any other complaints?
Me: Yes, as a matter of fact. There is an extended harp solo at the beginning of the Rose Adagio, after the Lilac Fairy casts her spell and puts everyone to sleep there is no foliage, the price dances a solo to the Lilac fairy's music and Catalabutte, a courtier or a master of ceremonies, I never know which, joins in the Garland Waltz. I'm sorry I missed Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty. Maybe he made sense of this.
PF: Do you think you'll go see Sleeping Beauty again?
Me: Not in this condition!