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Sleeping Beauty in DC, June 22-25reviews & comments


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 10:46 AM

So tonight is the big night at the Kennedy Center in D.C. -- the U.S. premiere of the Royal Ballet's new-old Sleeping Beauty.

I'm opening this thread in great anticipation of all Ballet-Talkers' comments.

As a reminder, here is principal casting:

Tonight - Cojocaru/Kobborg
June 23 - Marquez/Bonelli
June 24, mat - Lamb/Samodurov
June 24, eve - Nunez/Soares
June 25 - Cojocaru/Kobborg

The complete casting sheets were provided in the playbills of the mixed-bill performances. I don't have these with me but I recall that Alexandra Ansanelli is scheduled to perform Lilac Fairy in at least one of these presentations.

#2 koshka

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 12:02 PM

I find it rather intriguing that they provided the casting information with the inserts.

In any case, I will be going to the Sat and Sun matinees and am looking forward to both.

Of course, if anyone else can add to the casting information, that would be great.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 12:08 PM

The complete casting is in the program books. I'll give Lilacs, Florestan pas de trois, Bluebird pas, as that's usually what people are curious about :clapping:

Tonight (Thursday):

Lilac: Marianela Nunez
Florestan: Martin Harvey, Belinda Hatley, Deirdre Chapman
Princess Florine/Bluebird: Sara Lamb, Yohei Sasaki

Friday:
Lilac: Isabel McMeekan
Florestan: David Makhateli, Hatley, Lauren Cuthbertson
Bluebird: Laura Morera, Brian Maloney

Sat mat:
Lilac: Ansanelli
Florestan: Bennet Gartside, Natasha Oughtred, Victoria Hewitt
Bludbird: Yuhui Choe, Kenta Kura

Sat eve:
Lilac: McMeekan
Florestan: Valerie Hristov, Samantha Raine, Hikaru Kobayashi
Bluebirds: Morera, Maloney

Sun mat:
Lilac: Cuthbertson
Florestan: Harvey, Morera, Chapman
Bluebird: Hatley, Sasaki

#4 Natalia

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 06:26 AM

Well, last night's opening night of the Royal Ballet's new-old Sleeping Beauty is history. I will save my full review for the end of the run, after I've had the chance to fully digest this production. Initial thoughts:

Deep disappointment with the production. Overwhelming joy with the dancing.

The designs -- esp. the washed-out pathetic imitations of the Messel originals -- are boring. The only exception is Catalabutte's wonderful green coat, which seems to be the only treasure that remains from the hundreds of elaborate, primary-coloured confections of 1946. Where is the iconic Aurora Act I tutu worn by Margot Fonteyn, with the Velazquez "Las Meninas" details (red bows, deep pink overskirt, true sleeves...not the flimsy thing on Cojocaru's arms last night)? Where was Prince Florimund-Robert Helpman's bright-red coat & curly wig? Where was the Lilac Fairy-Beryl Gray's cluster-of-lilacs cap & leaf-detailed tutu? [For that matter -- where was Lilac's delicate seashell-pulled-by-butterflies boat? Instead, we get a mac-truck-proportioned float that must have been a cast-off from the last Tournament of Roses Parade.] Where were the vibrant striped gowns for the courtier-ladies or the yellow outfits of the Garland ladies, instead of the pistacchio-mint trifles seen last night? I could go on listing disappointment after disappointment.

The Watteau-esque backdrops are closer to the Messel originals but are either poorly lit or made in a 'cheaper' manner than what is seen in remaining films (i.e., 'The Magic of Dance, episode 1) or multiple books. Many of the props -- beside that dreadful barge -- were cheesy and obviously not in Messel's plan, e.g., Red Riding Hood's forest is now made up of Wal-Mart tin-foil Christmas trees, rather than the big-leaf green trees of 1946.

The staging of the actual dances was much better than the design. While I sorely miss Ashton's Garland Dance in Act I -- Wheeldon's is one of the most undistinguished in memory, on par with MacMillan's ABT version -- and most of the Hunt Scene dances are cut, most of the other segments that were traditionally performed by the Royal Ballet during the Glory Years of the 1950s/60s are there, such as Ashton's divine solo for Aurora in the Act II Vision Scene and the Florestan & His Two Sisters pas de trois in Act III (in place of the Mariinsky's Jewels Quartet).

Performances were almost-all wonderful. Alina Cojocaru is THE Aurora of our generation, as I saw in St. Petersburg this past March...although, Cojocaru seemed to dance in a slightly more 'modern' style (read that: higher leg extensions) last night than what she essayed at the Mariinsky. So that magical night at the Mariinsky remains my definitive Aurora interpretation. Nonetheless, Cojocaru displayed technical greatness (those balances!), beauty of line & infinite youthful charm throughout last night. In Johan Kobborg, she has her perfect prince (despite his dull beige outfit in this production) -- and Kobborg soared in his cabrioles during the coda of the grand pdd.

I am dying to see Marianella Nunez's own Aurora tomorrow night, judging from her impeccable & joyous-faced performance as Lilac last night. This is one ballerina who can truly lift an audience's spirits just with her smile...not to mention her lovely technique!

The other Prologue fairies were a bit tentative, with the exception of the crisp attack and musicality of Laura Morera in the 'finger variation' (Fairy of the Golden Vine).

Sarah Lamb -- like Amanda McKerrow, ABT-ex ballerina -- was born to be Princess Florine. She is small, neat, pale, blonde, not flashy but perfectly precise and charming. Sarah Lamb scored a triumph last night in the Bluebird pdd. Her Bluebird, Yohei Sasaki, was a fine partner & danced clean entrechats & brises-volees but does not have a particularly high jump.

The corps, in general, danced well -- esp. Lilac's eight attendants, crisp and uniform -- but the widely-varying schools of training are reflected in the different manners of upper-body carriage; hence, the Royal corps does not come close to approximating the uniformity & 'aristocratic grandeur' of the Kirov-Mariinsky. Which is not to say that the Royal (or ABT or anyone else) should aspire to be the Kirov-Mariinsky; they are not & should not be. That's a fact of life. But for those of us who have been weaned on a steady diet of uniform perfection from the former Imperial Mariinsky Ballet/now Kirov-Mariinsky, it's a bit disappointing to see anything short of that standard in this, the most courtly and aristocratic of ballets.

All in all, it was a night of specific dancing triumphs but, ultimately, a disappointment. If the Royal Ballet cannot give us the 'real thing' -- the Full Messel -- then please do not falsely-advertise 'The MAGIC is back!' to ballet-lovers who have been waiting 40-odd years for the return of that grand production. The MAGIC is NOT back. For magic -- go to St. Petersburg, Russia, & see The Sleeping Beauty in its definitive form.

p.s. - I am seriously thinking about beginning what I call "The BBC Fund" -- not for the broadcasting company. BBC stands for "Bring Back the Costumes" Fund. In a recent interview, Monica Mason admitted to having recycled some costumes & props from the recent ill-fated Makarova production at the Royal Ballet, to economise. Heck, I propose that we Ballet-Talkers will take the first steps towards raising the funds to give this troupe the lovely Messel costumes that they deserve to have. Hence, I'll pitch-in the first $100 towards the crafting of a TRUE Prince Florimund coat, in bright red.

#5 Ceeszi

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 06:48 AM

It is now 9:15 and I just woke up. I'm the one who drove 10 hours (NYC to DC and back) and took two days off from work just to see Alina dance. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

First of all, the drive went well. I left NY at 11:30 and arrived in DC at 4:15. The problem I had was getting to the Kennedy Center Parking Lot. Three times I followed signs that said "Kennedy Center" only to get on a road that lead to a highway that took me out of DC into Virginia. I passed the steps that the priest fell down in "The Exorcist" (TWICE!!), because I accidently got on the Key Bridge which goes by Georgetown and I had to make one illegal u-turn. But, I finally found it, parked the car, picked up my ticket, and sat in the coffee shop across the street in the Watergate until curtain time.

One more story. On Monday night, I went to see "Manon" and I was way, way up in Family Circle. Where was my seat last night? RIGHT BEHIND THE CONDUCTOR. For anyone who was there last night - that was me - front row - center seat. I thought there was some kind of mistake! I bought my ticket on the Internet on Tuesday afternoon. How this happened - God only knows! Never had I been this close to the stage since I was 13 years old and went to see "Annie" on Broadway.

OK - enough stories. Now, this is the first performance I have ever seen of the full-length "Sleeping Beauty". The Royal Ballet presented a beautiful and dynamic production, visually stunning, with spectacular dancing. And thanks to the casting of last night's performance, we got to see three of the ballerinas who are playing Aurora.

Marianela Nunez played the Lilac Fairy - she is playing Aurora on Saturday night. She was so radiant throughout the entire evening (what a smile!) and danced the part beautifully. Just one little glitch, but it wasn't her fault. In Act II, her chariot bumped into the scenery and she had a noticeable wobble, which elicited gasps from some members of the audience.

Sarah Lamb danced the Blue Bird Pas de Deux with Yohei Sasaki. She is playing Aurora on Saturday afternoon. I got really excited when I saw her name in the program, especially after reading on the board about her upcoming Aurora. And she is a lovely ballerina - there is a gentle quality to her dancing and she is probably going to be beautiful on Saturday.

But last night, we saw the best Aurora of all, but I will leave her for last. :clapping: :)

I sat there in awe the whole evening. In the Prologue, the dance of the Fairies set the whole tone for the night. I also recognized Thiago Soares, who was the Cavalier to the second Fairy. I saw him dance a wonderful "Thais" with Leanne Benjamin at the Ashton Centennial in 2004. Carabosse was actually played by a woman - Genesia Rosatto. When she entered with her rat-drawn chariot, I had flashbacks to seeing the Disney cartoon and the appearance of Maleficent (which used to give me nightmares). Then, Nunez, with her dancing and acting sets the mood of "Hey- don't worry- eveything is going to be OK!"

The Act I dance with the flowers was beautiful. Again, the Disney cartoon popped up in my head - "I know you - I walked with you once upon a dream ..." Then, my heart was in my mouth waiting for Alina's entrance. What can I say? I have been blessed to see some of the greatest ballerinas in the short time that I have been attending the ballet - Zakharova, Bussell, Vishneva, Ferri, Guillem, Lacarra. I can truly say that Alina Cojocaru is probably the loveliest ballerina that I have ever seen in my life. I actually cried while she was dancing the "Rose Adagio".

She has everything - beauty, presence, technique, artistry, gracefulness, and command of the stage. I could not take my eyes off of her the whole entire night. And when Johann Kobborg came on stage to join her - they make such a beautiful pair. And all of their dances together had that "meltingly lovely" quality. They had a beautiful Act II dance in the forest and their Act III Pas de Deux was spectacular, (especially the part where Johann dips her and she lets go and has her legs wrapped around him backwards).

Here is my only negative. I thought Johann Kobborg was great. (He is much better looking on stage than his mugshot of a picture in the Royal Ballet Souvenir Book). But, I was unimpressed with the rest of the male dancers. For example, Martin Harvey, who danced Florestan, and Yohei Sasaki, who danced the Bluebird are both adequate dancers. But, in NY, we are spoiled by Cornejo, Bocca (no more!) , Corella, Carreno, and Gomes. Kobborg has a lot of the qualities of our New York friends, but the rest of the male dancers were just OK.

Other than that, it was a beautiful evening. I came to see Alina and she was incredible. She was worth the drive. But please - can we ever get her back to NY? :)

#6 Hans

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 10:09 AM

Ceeszi, when I went to see the Kirov last weekend, I had an awful time getting to the Kennedy Center, too. I've been attending performances there for as long as I can remember and never had any trouble driving myself, but I circled the KC three times, just as you did, ending up back in VA every time. I blame it on the construction, as it used to be very well marked. However, I think it will all be exceptional when finished.

#7 canbelto

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 10:21 AM

When the production was rolled out in the UK, it certainly did not get ecstatic reviews. Many critics complained about the underwhelming sets and costumes.

#8 koshka

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 10:33 AM

Ceeszi--

I agree--DC is horrifically signed, esp. compared with New York.

And I know exactly how you got your seat, because it is my subscription seat. On Tuesday at lunchtime, I exchanged my Thursday seat (G108 or G109, right?) for a Sat. matinee seat as I also have a Sunday subscription and I wanted to see different casts. I did the exchange around 12 or 12:30.

I am so glad that you kept "my" seat warm for me. Oddly enough, "my" seat's neighbor to the left was not occupied by a subscriber this season, though I'm trying to get it for myself (in addition to "my" seat) for next season...

#9 nysusan

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 12:20 PM

… But last night, we saw the best Aurora of all, but I will leave her for last. :clapping: :)

…She has everything - beauty, presence, technique, artistry, gracefulness, and command of the stage. I could not take my eyes off of her the whole entire night. And when Johann Kobborg came on stage to join her - they make such a beautiful pair. And all of their dances together had that "meltingly lovely" quality. They had a beautiful Act II dance in the forest and their Act III Pas de Deux was spectacular, (especially the part where Johann dips her and she lets go and has her legs wrapped around him backwards).

Here is my only negative. I thought Johann Kobborg was great. (He is much better looking on stage than his mugshot of a picture in the Royal Ballet Souvenir Book). But, I was unimpressed with the rest of the male dancers. For example, Martin Harvey, who danced Florestan, and Yohei Sasaki, who danced the Bluebird are both adequate dancers. But, in NY, we are spoiled by Cornejo, Bocca (no more!) , Corella, Carreno, and Gomes. Kobborg has a lot of the qualities of our New York friends, but the rest of the male dancers were just OK.

Other than that, it was a beautiful evening. I came to see Alina and she was incredible. She was worth the drive. But please - can we ever get her back to NY? :)


Ceeszi – you hit it right on the head for me with those comments. Cojocaru was the ultimate Aurora for me, possessing all the qualities you described. I was a little surprised by the height of her extensions (I know that she can do them, but thought she’d be a little more circumspect) but her dancing embodied a joyful, gentle radiance. Early on she brought to mind the Homeric image of “rosey fingered dawn” gently bringing the morning light. She was lovely, and Kobborg was her perfect partner. The prince can be a really lackluster role – I remember a few of them looking pretty stupid – but Kobborg brought a kind of regal naturalness to the role, and his dancing was elegant and effortless.

Usually my favorite part of this ballet is the Rose Adagio. Hers was good, outstanding even, but not a Rose to make me forget all others. But she just kept getting stronger with each appearance – her 2nd act vision scene was one of the loveliest moments I have ever seen in many years of ballet going, and her final act was brilliant.

Like you I was totally unimpressed by the 2 male soloists who danced Florestan and the Bluebird – so much so that I wondered why they were cast.

Absolutely loved Sarah Lamb and am looking forward to her Aurora at tomorrow’s matinee.

I will reserve comment on the production itself till I’ve seen a couple more casts except to say how much I loved the mime, and Genesia Rosato’s Carabosse. I thought the mime was one of the best things about this production, it was clear and confidently presented.

For Ansanelli watchers – she is scheduled to dance the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain tonight (Friday), Saturday night and Sunday matinee in addition to dancing the Lilac Fairy at the Saturday matinee.

Susan

#10 ami1436

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 02:44 PM

Thanks all of you for your thoughts from across the pond! For those of you seeing multiple casts, I am very interested in hearing your opinions of how the Nunez and Cojacaru Auroras differ! :)

In terms of the men, the ABT principals mentioned are that - principals. The RB dancers noted are not of that rank - but still, I think it would be hard to beat the manpower at ABT!!! There is constant talk here of the 'dearth' of male up-and-coming principals.

Sasaki was one of the first RB bluebirds I ever saw a few years ago (in the Makarova production), and he flew. In other things I saw of him that year, his elevation was quite good (I mean, he's know Carlos 'Gravity? What Gravity?' Acosta, but he was notably higher than the others). I recall that he was injured at some point, but can't remember when - still, I'm surprised - and wonder if it will change/improve as it goes... He seems to be a reliable partner to me.

Harvey is one of those who wavers to me. There's some things I've seen him in, in which I thought he was excellent. But others... not so much. Sometimes I think he's still 'finding himself' in a performance, if that makes sense.

Has Iohna Loots done any of the Fairy Variations (Songbird?)? Laura Morera has been looking fabulous this past season in general. Oh, and those of you seeing Yuhui Choe, we *must* compare notes. I missed her Florine (which I think she did here with Zachary Faruque), and am dying to hear more about it!

-Sidenote... in terms of getting to the Kennedy Center... I used to live right next to it and we still had troubles getting to it! :clapping: And if coming in from eslewhere, we sometimes found it easier (quicker) to park elsewhere or take the subway in - and either way catch the shuttle from the Foggy Bottom metro!.

#11 kfw

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 04:02 PM

ami1436, Loots will dance Songbird tonight. She was delightful last night as Red Riding Hood.

Ceeszi, my hat's off to you for all the driving you did. :tiphat: I've driven further primarily for ballet more than once, but not for one performance only.

I don't have the advantage, or in this case perhaps disadvantage, of knowing many productions of Sleeping Beauty, but I was very happy with the sets and costumes yesterday. Everything looks much more vibrant than in certain washed-out photos I'd seen. And while the boat wasn't delicate, for me it was magical.

As for the dancing, Cojocaru, Nunez and Lamb surpassed even my high expectations, and Cojocaru and Kohborg had a touching rapport. I wouldn't call his dancing virtuostic, but the character's the thing, and he was a fine actor and beautiful dancer. I agree with nysusan about the delightful mime. I wanted a more maniacal mien from Rosato's Carabosse, but I suppose I just wanted her to be Anthony Dowell. She was convincing in her own way, and I loved her entrances and exits. All in all, a joyous night! I'll be back for the matinee Sunday, and just maybe tomorrow.

In yesterday's rehearsal, Nunez danced Lilac Fairy with Marquez's Aurora, not a casting combination scheduled for actual performance here. I think tonight's audience will be very pleased with Marquez.

#12 chauffeur

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 05:10 PM

It took me 5 years of living in DC before I could drive to the Kennedy Center without ending up in Virginia! And danged if our cab driver didn't nearly do it to us on Wednesday night (but that's a whole other story for the other Royal thread).

anyway, I just wanted to check in with my take on the Thursday SB (shout out to Pat, Art and Susan, met under the Kennedy head). You know, I appreciate the historical debate on the costumes and production value as much as the next BT person, but for me, what the Royal has imported is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I loved the richly elegant restraint of the set designs and the sumptuous costuming. It all provided a wonderful imaginative and textured setting to what should have been, and was, the focus of the production -- the dancing.

The RB style struck me as being technique in service to artistry -- and not the other way around which too often seems to happen, especially as ballet becomes such a competition-driven culture here in the US. The steps in this particular ballet are rarely very complicated -- they're just done so well, and it was so encouraging to my daughter, the ballet student, to see what a difference exquisitely pure technique makes in performance.

As others have said, Cojocaru's Aurora was wonderful -- the extension, the balance, the relaxed control and commitment. And I could see so much in her dancing with Kobborg that bespoke total confidence and trust. All that said, however, I do look forward to (hopefully) seeing her perform this role in 5-10 years. I wanted to see just a squidge more character development, something that showed me more of the impetuous teen that Aurora was in Act I and the woman she had become by Act III. That kind of acting, for me, is the only thing right now keeping Cojocaru from being a dancer we'll speak of in the same breath as Farrell and Fonteyn, but I do think she's on her way. The next several years will be exciting to watch.

Loved the corps work. It's a lot cleaner than a lot I've seen this side of the Pond. Genesia Rosato's Carobosse worked for me: I thought she was pretty damn sexy, actually! Bummer about the balky carriage ride that the Lilac Fairy took Florimund on there in Act II: It was an otherwise really cool and visually magnificent scene. And Nunez as Lilac Fairy was lovely -- commanding but in a warmly maternal sort of a way. Lamb as Florine was excellent, though not the knockout I was hoping for. Perhaps she was whupped from the night before where she danced her tuckus off as lead female in MacMillan's Gloria? And from the godforsaken DC weather on Thursday (94 degree temperature, 2000 percent humidity)?

In any event, it was a wonderful experience and well worth the journey. And I thoroughly look forward to the day, decades from now, when I'll be able to sigh over my sherry and say, "Ah, yes, I remember when we saw Cojocaru and Kobborg in Sleeping Beauty in oh-six...."

#13 koshka

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 05:17 PM

All of these reviews plus comments from friends at ballet class are adding to my anticipation of this weekend's performances.

As for driving to the KCen: as above, it really is dreadful to drive around there. I personally never park in the garage, but if people want directions for future reference, let me know which direction you're coming from & I'll give it a shot.

#14 Ceeszi

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 07:22 PM

And I know exactly how you got your seat, because it is my subscription seat. On Tuesday at lunchtime, I exchanged my Thursday seat (G108 or G109, right?) for a Sat. matinee seat as I also have a Sunday subscription and I wanted to see different casts. I did the exchange around 12 or 12:30.



Koshka - I can't thank you enough! I will never forget Thursday night! :tiphat:

#15 atm711

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 03:22 AM

As others have said, Cojocaru's Aurora was wonderful -- All that said, however, I do look forward to (hopefully) seeing her perform this role in 5-10 years. I wanted to see just a squidge more character development, something that showed me more of the impetuous teen that Aurora was in Act I and the woman she had become by Act III.




Since I am 'stuck' here in NY, I did not get to see this performance that you all describe so enthusiastically. But, as I read your reviews the above thought occurs to me. I suspect 'Chauffeur' is correct when she predicts 5 to 10 years maturity. With this in mind, I was surprised by those who said she was the best Aurora they have seen.


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