Sleeping Beauty in DC, June 22-25reviews & comments
Posted 24 June 2006 - 05:42 AM
Posted 24 June 2006 - 06:27 AM
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.
Hi drb& atm711, and a big shout out right back to chauffer! I absolutely LOVE Cojocaru but IMO only time will tell if she joins the pantheon of Ulanova, Fonteyn, Makarova and Farrell. She may be ďthe greatestĒ in a specific role but as a ballerina for now I would group her with Vishneva, Pavlenko and Lopatkina . Certainly I think these dancers stand out above all of their contemporaries but they are very different dancers, and I think that whether one really stands out above the others depends upon the role, the specific performance and, above all Ė the viewerís taste. Vishnevaís Aurora was every bit as good as Cojocarus in many ways. She was a high voltage Aurora, a 1000 watt light bulb that lit up the stage but she was also a very athletic Aurora, and her huge personality dominated the evening. Cojocaru was a much gentler Aurora. Her endless line, beautiful flow and classical epaulment perfectly expressed the classical virtues that Aurora is supposed to embody. And I do feel that she developed the character, both in her acting and most especially, through her dancing. For me, hers was the ultimate interpretation but we all have different opinions and thatís what keeps things interesting!
I like this production in general, it has a very British sense of gentility but it really ambles along. Pastel colors and lovely backdrops made it the set look like a beautiful water color painting come to life. It looked like a peaceful, bucolic kingdom. But some of the costume choices were baffling. A group of girls in Act 1 were wearing green dresses that looked like they could have been modern day picnic dresses. And I have to say that I prefer the Kirovís fairy variations and Puss-in-Boots (Sergeyev version, I havenít seen the reconstruction). But, I love the vision scene, and the grand pas de deux, especially the coda.
Marquez was fine, she acted the part very well and the audience loved her but I didnít really see Auroraís character expressed through her DANCING. Also, she didnít have that endless line and her phrasing was kind of sharp for my taste. Iím not talking about her musical phrasing, and maybe Iím using the wrong word here. I mean the way she actually executed the steps. Sheíd hit a pose on the beat and then go on to the next, she didnít linger in her poses. Her leg seemed to move from the hip in her developees and go directly up to itís final height, there was no resistance, no development. Bonelli looked very good and I much preferred David Makhateli as Florestan and Brian Maloney as the Bluebird to the 2 who danced on Thursday. Maloney especially had beautiful line.
Londoners may think that Ansanelli still looks like a Balanchine dancer, but I was amazed at how far she has come in terms of developing the use of her upper body. At the State Theater her shoulders always looked tight to me, and her upper body kind of stiff but not anymore! The carriage of her shoulders, neck and head were beautiful, and she gave us a lovely Crystal Fountain Fairy. I was also very impressed with Laura Moreraís Florine.
Posted 24 June 2006 - 10:38 AM
anyway, on the "best Aurora" debate, I just have to say that Cojocaru is the best I've ever seen live. I never saw some of the other great names invoked perform live, so it's entirely possible that she could be the best a lot of us have ever seen -- even if she's got room to grow. Again, I am very excited to watch this already wonderful ballerina continue to mature!
Posted 24 June 2006 - 01:48 PM
...I always worry when my judgement agrees with Sarah Kaufman's too, so I just didn't read the review this morning.
Dancing first: the principals were wonderful--Ansanelli as Lilac, Sarah Lamb as Aurora. The remainder of the soloists did a lovely job, though I thought the Fairy of the Songbird was rather frenetic in her movements. I know the variation has a lot of movement, but there was something excessive about it.
Also, at some points Lamb seemed to move through the poses when it seemed like a hold or at least a pause would have fit better.
The corps was raggedy--at one point, the first dancer in the line was good half-beat ahead of the rest on an opening jump (in the 2nd act, I think--where they do the little cabrioles). When they danced linked at the arms, nobody thought to arrange them by height, and it was distracting. Bah.
I like the way Carabosse is done in this production very much--she is very feminine, yet quite evil and catty.
On costumes, I must disagree with Natalia (this must be where the tabula rasa of my nonexistent visual memory helps!)--I loooooove the pastels and thought they made for a beautiful, shimmering production. The only costume I missed a bit was the Kirov's cat-accented cape for Carabosse, but I thought Carabosse's costume in this production fit the character magnificently.
My costuming gripe for the afternoon (you know there always is one with me!): one of Ansanelli's pointe shoes had very deep rose (or very grimy pink!) ribbons, which was out of sync with her tights, the other shoe, and everything else, AND the ends came untucked at one point.
All in all, though, it was a delight and I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Posted 24 June 2006 - 04:31 PM
Production - I loved the costumes, they looked scintillating, rich, and very new, even from the 3d row. While respecting Natalia's objections about their design, I guess that I was totally seduced by the "bling." I do think the scenic backdrops, especially of the palace, need a refresh, or better yet a redo. It needs a more brilliant palace to show off this jewel of a ballet in its proper setting!
Principals - Sarah Lamb as Aurora started off with a pretty secure Rose Adagio, although I wish it had been a little more relaxed. It's not enough to execute this exacting variation well, you have to look as if you're having fun :-) I loved the artistry of her Act II dream scene in the forest with Viacheslav Samodurov, her impressive technique in the Act III variations, and especially her final Grand pdd with Samodurov. I didn't see much character development, and she yielded one or two adjustments and maybe one correction, but nothing that detracted from the pleasure of seeing a fresh new dancer in this role. By the way, Lamb is incorrectly listed as a First Soloist in the program. Lamb was promoted to Principal last month, evidently after the KC program had already gone to press.
I've already praised Samodurov's partnering, and also loved the way he strutted his stuff in his Act III solo variations. Overall, I'd say that Lamb+Samodurov was a very good casting decision!
Lilac Fairy - Isabel McMeekan gave a sweet but undercharacterized performance.
Song Bird - I'd walk a mile to see Gemma Bond in this role! For some reason she's only a "first artist" (translation: one step up from the corps) according to the program, but from what I saw this afternoon, I'd like to see her take a step or two up the hierarchy.
Florestan & his Sisters - nice job by all three, and one of the sisters was just absolutely outstanding. Alas, I don't know which of the two sisters this was - either Natasha Oughtred or Victoria Hewitt - the brilliant brunette, if that helps. Can somebody give me the right name here?
Carabosse - Elizabeth McGorian is so hot, and she added so much to the performance! When a dancer has so much fun being "evil," and has so much stage presence that you can hardly take your eyes off her, it raises the level of the whole production. And speaking of stage presence, Christopher Saunders as King Florestan XXIV also added considerable value to what is normally just a toss-off role. In this performance, Saunders made me believe that Aurora's father is really a king, and so she is really a princess.
Corps - granted, there was a problem in Act II when they all lined up in the forest and every leg was elevated at a different length (and one leg, I don't know whose, was actually wobbling.) But, look at their other work in the performance, and I claim that Act II was actually a problem with whoever rehearsed them rather than with the corps dancers as such. These are seriously talented dancers (RB must have an exceptionally good intake program) that have a great individual and collective esprit and I expect to see many of them move rapidly up in the hierarchy. I'm personally willing to put up with a certain amount of unevenness in corps work when I also see such a depth of talent in the ranks. For example, I thought their performance in the great Act I "hopping" dance (one of my favorite corps presentations in all of classical ballet, that never fails to bring a frisson whenever I see it) was totally brilliant.
Overall - a lovely afternoon of ballet that left me wanting, as usual, more!
Posted 24 June 2006 - 05:49 PM
The Aurora was Sylvie Guillem, who had just joined the company. In that production, Aurora entered from the top of a staircase at stage left (audience right), in the middle of a crowd, while a whole lot of dancing was going on below. So, Guillem fought her way through the extras and popped up on the staircase. The Kennedy Center audience, most of whom (including me) had never heard of Sylvie Guillem, went dead silent - and I mean, *completely* quiet - and then took one colllective breath, 4000 people inhaling in unison. I have never experienced anything like that, either before or since, and Sylvie was doing nothing at all except just standing there at the head of the staircase!
From then on, things just got better and better. The traditional way of dancing the Rose Variation is that Aurora starts out diffident, a young girl supported and turned by her four partners, and then grows in confidence as she holds her balance longer and longer on her own. Well, Sylvie wasn't having anything of this. She was like, "you all can pretend to support me if you want to" while she turned and balanced like an angel on a perfect pivot point. So that is why, much as I love all the great Auroras from Margot Fonteyn through Alina Cojocaru, Sylvie Guillem will always be my first love in this role, the pinnacle of classical ballet.
Posted 24 June 2006 - 05:58 PM
Posted 25 June 2006 - 05:07 AM
I have to say I enjoyed the RB's Beauty better than the Kirov's just from the fact I think the story flows better with the Royal's staging. I think the Kirov's fairy tale characters were more fun to watch, the RB's dance with that English restraint.
Posted 25 June 2006 - 08:21 AM
Posted 25 June 2006 - 07:01 PM
Lamb's Aurora was sweet and demure and I'm very glad I saw her, but where she glows, Cojocaru positively radiates. Cojocaru had a spot of balance trouble in the Rose Adagio today, but she never broke character. No doubt her characterization will mature, but already it progresses through each act, and for me her Vision scene is overwhelming, ardent and mysterious enough to entrance a prince.
There are so many little details in this production that delighted me, and everyone onstage seemed fully in character. I first grew to really love ballet from watching Balanchine. After a production like this, I feel like I've seen 'how the other half lives.'
Thank you, Monica Mason and the Royal Ballet!
Posted 26 June 2006 - 06:37 AM
Now that the shock of the costumes has passed, I conclude that this is a pretty-darn-good production. The costumes, while too jewel-encrusted & pale, would be quite stunning with new, brighter backdrops. However, the most important element in this new-old production -- the restoration of most of the 1946 steps and mime -- makes the overall staging a triumph.
Now on to a comparison of performances.
AURORA - Alina Cojocaru is the best Aurora, by a mile. She & Vishneva could vie for top Aurora on earth. The taller and ever-smiling (bright-red lipsticked) Marianela Nunez was a solid, if distant, second, performing good Rose Adagio & fabulous solos. She danced on what I call "Competitions Night" on Saturday -- the night when most principals stepped out of that 'English reserve' and played top-me-if-you-can. Nunez and her prince, Suares, even altered the choregraphy of the grand pdd's coda to show-off their jetes and even a Soviet high-lift. Hmmm... That night also saw some rather odd mannerisms by the best of the Bluebirds, Brian Maloney -- fabulous at his first outing on Friday...but bizarre in his deportment on Saturday night. Back to the Auroras. My 3rd-favourite was Roberta Marquez on Friday, who had just the right balance between elegance & flash (especially her ability to do double-pirouettes in both directions). Marquez' prince was, to me, the best & most elegant: Federico Bonelli. Sarah Lamb was a bit of a disappointment, although she improved throughout Saturday afternoon's performance. Stated simply, Lamb seemed terrified during the Rose Adagio and almost all of her balances were saved by the four princes. She stumbled throughout Act I...yet surprised us with a smooth-as-silk triple pirouette in her solo. But technique is not Lamb's main problem. She simply does not project because she is very fair & frail (unlike the tiny but more muscular and expressive-faced Cojocaru). Sarah Lamb was born to dance the ghostly heroines, such as La Sylphide & Giselle Act II. In Sleeping Beauty, she is a great Florine but that's that. Like Amanda McKerrow in the U.S.
PRINCES - Federico Bonelli was the stateliest and most elegant, yet also very strong technically. Johan Kobborg - magnificent in his own technique but especially great as a partner; however, his projection is a big less than Bonelli so I give the Italian top honors. I draw a big line for those two & place the others -- 'in-his-own-world' Vyacheslav Samodurov and the 'over showy' Thiago Soares -- significantly below. For starters, both Samodurov and Soares altered the coda's choreography for the man; Samodurov going further and dancing the Kirov solo! Regarding Soares, it was telling that my seat-neighbor on Saturday night said to me, during the bows, "He looks more the villain than the prince, but I bet that he dances a good villain!"[I told her - indeed, Soares is a great pirate in 'Sylvia.']
BLUEBIRDS - The only truly 'on,' high-flying Bluebird was Brian Maloney -- with Laura Morera on both Friday and Sat nights. I can't get over Maloney's goofy behavior on Sat night, though, at one point even bowing & waving at the Queen. The other two men who I saw (both Japanese) have the positive points but were unable to soar into pas de poison position, as did Brian. I ask myself: Why the heck did the RB not cast their in-house technical whiz, Steven McRae as the Bluebird??? He was THE HIT of 'Homage to the Queen' and widely reported as the RB's finest hot-shot jumper. So why was he here cast only in Garland Dance & other corps sections?
FLORINES - I have a new rising star to report: Yuhui Choe, who danced on Saturday afternoon with the shaky Kenta Kura. Sarah Lamb, of course, was the A-#1 Florine, but both Choe and Morera -- dancing with Maloney -- were fantastic.
LILACS - The only two who made impact on me were Nunez (of course) at the opening and the gorgeous Alexandra Ansanelli on Saturday afternoon. The other two were relatively weak in their classical dancing but gracious in their mime.
PAS DE TROIS - all that I recall is that most of the men were weak. The ladies were wonderful, esp. Natasha Oughtred on (I think) Sat afternoon.
OTHER FAIRIES - I've already pointed out Morera's 'finger variation' at the opening. Also fantastic: Caroline Duprot stole the 'fairy lineup' on Saturday afternoon with a delectable Canari Fairy. Can this lady project! A real beauty.
Thank you, Royal Ballet. Just bring back the true Messel costumes next time!
Posted 26 June 2006 - 07:36 AM
I still love the pastel costumes, but I think the backdrops could be lighter or at the very least better-lit. Many scenes were simply too dark to my eye. I also wonder how much of the perceived drabness of the sets would be improved by more/better light--with the pastel costumes, after all, excessively bold sets might not work very well.
Alina Cojocaru (Sun afternoon) was a delightful Aurora, and super-strong technically in general, but Act I had (to my eye) a few over-acted moments and a series of hopped triple pirouettes where solid doubles would've been much preferred. Her balance at many moments was unbelievable. The only other Aurora I saw was Sarah Lamb, and I agree with Natalia here--she does not really project enough for the role and is better suited to the waif/ghostly roles.
I actually liked Sunday's Lilac (Cuthbertson, I think) better than Ansanelli on Saturday--Cuthbertson seemed more technically secure. Both had beautiful mime. In fact, I liked the mime in this production very much overall.
Once again I thought the Carabosse role was delicious--probably my favorite of all Carabosses. Carabosse's mice and chariot are also fantastic.
I don't know if this was noticeable further back, but there was a 3-year-old girl seated just behind the conductor on Sunday afternoon. He caught sight of her (and looked a bit surprised) when acknowledging the audience before the prologue, and gaver her her own little nod both before the prologue and before Acts I & II. The little girl was enchanted for the whole show.
Posted 26 June 2006 - 07:47 AM
I agree with Koshka on the sets. The only way that I could get it to work for me was to think about it in a hazy-imagination type thing - Almost like you're transported to this sepia-coloured world of a fairy tale, that you know is big and grand but you can't see the details because you're so enchanted by the people/things you see there... does that make sense?
Did anyone see Ansanelli both in London and in the U.S.? Did she grow into the role more? I hate to say it, because I like her a lot, but she just did not work for me at all as the Lilac Fairy. For me, for Sleeping Beauty to work, you need to believe wholeheartedly in the benevolence, humbleness, graciousness, generousity, and elegance of the Lilac Fairy. And I think Nunez gets this hands down.
I think Sarah Lamb has become increasingly ghost/waif-like over the past year. When she came to the Royal she seemed notably different in some of her 'debuts' here - like in Swan Lake pas de trois.
Maloney really waved at the queen as Bluebird??? Wha???
Posted 26 June 2006 - 07:50 AM
HOWEVER, despite the deportment, Brian danced magnificently. In the end, that's what counts the most.
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