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The Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House

There are several good reasons for seeing this production of The Sleeping Beauty, apart from Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music, stylishly played by the Royal Opera House Orchestra under Koen Kessels.

Fumi Kaneko as the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty ©2023 ROH. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski.
Fumi Kaneko as the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty ©2023 ROH. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski.

Firstly there is Petipa’s original spectacular 1890 choreography, recreated by Frederick Ashton and others. Then there are the lavish designs by Oliver Messel, originally used for the 1946 Royal Ballet production, revived by Monica Mason and Christopher Newton in 2006 for the company’s 75th anniversary. The sets in particular are staggeringly beautiful, consisting mostly of artistically painted drop cloths in Classical style, the transformation scene in Act Two is one of the many highlights of the evening.

Then of course there is the dancing itself, and these days the Royal Ballet has one of the most talented companies it has ever had, the corps de ballet being particularly impressive by its precision.

At the opening performance of this revival, Princess Aurora was danced magically by Marianela Nunez, often with great poise. Her Rose Adagio in Act One was quite breathtaking.

Prince Florimund, who wakes her with a kiss after she has been put to sleep for one hundred years by Carabosse, was energetically portrayed by Vadim Muntagirov, working seamlessly with Nunez in the Grand Pas de Deux in Act Three.

Other members of the cast who particularly impressed were Fumi Kaneko as the Lilac fairy – she is dancing Aurora later in the run – and Kristen McNally as the above-mentioned wicked fairy Carabosse. Puss-in Boots (Mica Bradbury) and the White Cat (Leo Dixon) were very amusing in their Act Three duet and Isabella Gasparini and Joseph Sissens were the epitome of graceful as Princess Florine and the Bluebird.

Thomas Whitehead as Master of Ceremonies Cattalabute, he who allows Carabosse to appear at the Christening of Aurora, even though uninvited, was played with great dignity and humour and the four princes in Act One were elegantly danced by Gary Avis, Nicol Edmonds, David Donnelly and Thomas Mock.

The various sets were magically lit by Mark Jonathan, always apt to the various moods of the ballet.

This production of The Sleeping Beauty is one of the Royal Ballet’s many triumphs and is an ideal introduction to the world of classical ballet for “first timers” as well as those who know the work well. If you are unable to see it at the Royal Opera House it will be broadcast live to cinemas on May 24 and 28, but seeing it live is an experience not to be missed! Very highly recommended!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

Marius Petipa’s three-act ballet was fully restored to the Company’s repertory by Monica Mason and Christopher Newton in 2006, incorporating original designs by Oliver Messel and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score. With additional choreography by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon, this production includes an array of virtuoso sequences, including the Rose Adage, celebrated as one of the most testing challenges for a classical dancer.

Choreography Marius Petipa
Additional choreography Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon
Production Monica Mason and Christopher Newton after Ninette De Valois and Nicholas Sergeyev
Music Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Original designs Oliver Messel
Additional designs Peter Farmer
Lighting designer Mark Jonathan
Conductor Koen Kessels

The Royal Ballet
Main Stage
Monday 16 January – Tuesday 6 June 2023
Live Cinema Relay: Wednesday 24 May 2023, 7:15pm
Encore Cinema Relay: Sunday 28 May 2023, 2pm

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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