BWW Review: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, Royal Opera House
A stalwart of the classical repertoire, there's much to admire in The Sleeping Beauty: glittering, colourful costumes, enchanting storytelling, and opportunities for the whole company to shine. Petipa's production was first seen in 1946, reopening the Opera House after World War II, and alternative versions have been offered up over the years, but this is the one to have stood the test of time, subject to only minor updates.
On opening night, this Beauty brims with youthful talent and rising stars. Yasmine Naghdi handles the choreographic demands with calm assurance. She is serene, exuding purity and grace. She demonstrates steely confidence in the infamously demanding rose adagio, where she holds the poses en pointe for a moment longer than needed as if to say "I can go one better!". She trills joyfully around her would-be suitors, never dismissive of them, and in the vision scene is dreamily distant.
Fumi Kaneko's Lilac Fairy is the perfect counterpart in a role that requires substantial endurance. She holds the story together with a warm authority and effective mime, most notably when guiding Prince Florimund to Aurora's bedside.
Matthew Ball's initially lonely Prince is technically dependable but unremarkable. Petipa's production doesn't give the Prince much depth, and he always strikes me as a little dim when the Lilac Fairy has to prompt him to remember what to do when he finally finds the sleeping Aurora.
The true joy of this Beauty is in the supporting roles, however. Kristen McNally's calculating Carabosse is wonderfully wicked and theatrical, with her supporting team of rats that announce her entrances and exits. The fast feet of an effervescent Anna Rose O'Sullivan as the Fairy of the Song Bird and the always bright Yuhui Choe as the Fairy of the Golden Vine are the pick of the vibrant crop on display.
The grandeur of the final act is a selection of party pieces now that the business of the story is over. Naghdi and Ball are transformed, their innocence replaced with an elegant regality. Two Principals in the form of Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé emerge for an exacting and exciting Bluebird pas de deux. Hayward is all light, bright ethereal charm, while Sambé is explosive in powerhouse jumps and creamy, soft landings.
Running until January with many more eye-catching castings and debuts to see, and with an absence of Nutcracker this year, this Beauty provides a welcome bit of festive fairy tale and fantasy.
The Sleeping Beauty is in repertoire at the Royal Opera House until 16 January, 2020
Image: Bill Cooper