Dance review: The Sleeping Beauty

This is a real festive treat, says Joy Sable


If you want to see classical ballet distilled into its purest form, then The Sleeping Beauty is for you. It remains the supreme test of any major company, requiring the dancers not only to be on top form technically, but also to convey fairytale magic and wonder without appearing twee. It also offers plenty of roles for soloists, lots of dancing for the corps de ballet and taxing pas de deux and variations for the principals.

The Royal Ballet’s current production is based on the 1946 work which was designed by Oliver Messel.  It has been revamped for modern audiences, but still retains both prettiness and grandeur, with the costumes being especially lovely.

However good the designs, a Sleeping Beauty lives or dies by its Aurora, and on opening night, Yasmine Naghdi gave a performance to treasure in this most difficult of roles. Young and exuberant in Act I, she bounded onto the stage for her speedy first solo, then sailed through the formidable Rose Adage with perfect balances and no fear.

Kristen McNally was a deliciously malevolent – and very glamorous – Carabosse, making the most of her mime scenes.  Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Mayari Magri shone in their fairy variations in the Prologue, and they also looked impressive in their Act III solos, despite the very unflattering neck ruffs they had to wear. Matthew Ball made the most of Prince Florimund – it is rather a thankless role as he spends a lot of time wandering around looking pained or puzzled, but he pulled off the showstopper final pas de deux with aplomb.

Francesca Hayward (soon to be seen in the new “Cats” film) and Marcelino Sambe soared through the air as Princess Florine and the Bluebird. They are audience favourites and it is easy to see why.

The glories of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score were somewhat muted under the baton of Simon Hewett. This music – particularly Carabosse’s theme – needs to be blasted out, and the orchestra sounded underpowered at some parts of the evening.

This year, there is no Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, but this Sleeping Beauty, together with Coppelia, which will also be on, is a more than worthy substitute as a Chanukah treat.

The Sleeping Beauty is at the Royal Opera House until January 16.

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