Rodents have overrun the Royal Opera House this season in the nicest possible way. Not only do mice feature in the Royal Ballet's current production of The Nutcracker, but the evil fairy Carabosse has a mean-looking entourage of rats in The Sleeping Beauty.
This classical masterpiece is the company’s signature work and has been performed at many landmark moments throughout its history: it reopened the Opera House after the war in 1946 and was the main attraction when the then Sadler’s Wells Ballet made its debut in New York in 1949, making an international star of Margot Fonteyn.
Celebrating 70 years on the Covent Garden stage, this production uses updated versions of Oliver Messel’s original designs and has lost none of its magic. With the crystalline beauty of Marius Petipa’s exquisite choreography, Sleeping Beauty offers plenty of opportunities for the dancers: there are the fairy variations in the Prologue, as well as the joyous wedding celebrations in the last act, when fairy-tale characters dance their own tributes to Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora.
The corps performs with precision and clarity – the men’s petit batterie is crisp, and landings are secure with not a wobble in sight. Of all the fairies, newly promoted principal Francesca Hayward attracts the eye with her speed and easy technique (and what a glorious Princess Florine she makes later in the ballet, in the famous Blue Bird pas de deux). Claire Calvert is a gracious Lilac Fairy, tackling her difficult Prologue solo with aplomb, while Kristen McNally makes a glamorous and deliciously evil Carabosse.
As Aurora, Sarah Lamb is tentative and shy in the first act, but she pulls off the terrifying Rose Adagio with its nightmare balances en attitude with ease, and she has a lovely line in her arabesque. Cool and remote in the vision scene, she really shines in the final pas de deux with its spectacular fish dives. In Vadim Muntagirov (replacing the injured Matthew Golding) she has an elegant, safe partner, happy to let his ballerina shine.
This production will be in the repertory until Tuesday March 14, with various casts. There will also be a live cinema screening on Tuesday February 28. Not one to miss if you want to see the Royal Ballet at its very best.