Review: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, Royal Opera House

In repetoire from the Royal Ballet until June 6

By: Jan. 18, 2023
Review: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, Royal Opera House
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Review: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, Royal Opera House After a long, hard run of Nutcracker, both London's premier ballet companies are providing somewhat of a Tchiakovsky exhibition with English National Ballet offering Swan Lake and now the Royal Ballet giving one of their signature works, The Sleeping Beauty, an extended run until June.

These are big, dreamy, crowd pleasing ballets delivered for the most part with style and grace in which the star cast still sparkles but the extended escapism can serve to hinder the storytelling.

The Prologue is a largely decorative affair, with the fairies bestowing their gifts and good wishes upon the baby Aurora. There's a lot of parading and ceremony but it is good humoured and Oliver Messel's designs are charming and colourful. It's slow paced, however and those who like action may find it requires patience. Fumi Kaneko is a warm and virtuous Lilac Fairy, fittingly ethereal and unwaveringly elegant but having previously danced Aurora (and due to later do so in this run) she can offer more than this role gives her to do.

A word for Kristen McNally's spiky Carabosse who injects some much needed intrigue and evil to proceedings. Her mime is unmistakable, in a role she has come to perfect, and she's a welcome contrast to the more mundane goodness of the other fairy shenanigans.

By Act I and Princess Aurora's 16th birthday, the audience is ready to be dazzled and Marianela Nunez more than obliges. A flighty, flirty and unflustered Aurora, she is effervescent as she skims the stage, dancing joyfully and landing the many jumps weightlessly. Nunez may be 40 but she is every inch the youthful, untroubled teenager who charms the audience from the moment she makes her anticipated entrance. After a spritely start, she is controlled and unhurried in the demanding Rose Adagio, where she holds a series of unsupported balances while being passed from suitor to suitor. There is no jeopardy here however, Nunez remains serene, luxuriating in the score played with panache by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under Koen Kessels.

It feels an age before we meet Vadim Muntagirov's Prince Florimund but he is more than worth the wait. His Prince is a sincere character with creamy soft landings and his trademark flawless line, paired with the purity of Nunez's Aurora it's easy to see why the audience respond so vocally. The vision scene which follows is fluid, the corps warming up nicely by now to frame this dreamy fairytale.

Of course, it all ends happily with the marriage scene of Act III. In pace, it's a return to the Prologue, full of decorative niceties that can wear a little but there are some standouts to be seen. Isabella Gasperini (dancing earlier as the Fairy of the Enchanted Garden) is back with Joseph Sissens for the Bluebird pas de deux. These are two rising stars who dance with an abundance of musicality; Gasperini has a wonderfully expressive upper body and Sissens displays boundless energy and technical prowess with, his legs beating together so cleanly in the bravura jumps of the coda.

The fireworks are completed with a regal wedding pas de deux, Nunez' Aurora finding a more mature side now, the pair make a stately couple, the daring fish-dives not enough for so much as a flicker of doubt in his happy conclusion.

The Sleeping Beauty is at the Royal Opera House until 6 June

Photo Credit: Andrej Uspenski


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