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REVIEWS: The Sleeping Beauty


nysusan

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What, nobody else home yet from opening night? Well, I'm sure some people just can't go to sleep tonight until they hear how it went so, briefly – before I go to bed:

Part was triumphant! She not only gave us a technically secure Rose Adagio she surprised me with jetes that were practically worthy of Sizova and was ravishingly beautiful throughout. Gomes was her perfect Prince, Wiles a beautifully classical Lilac Fairy and Cornejo was simply unbelievable as the bluebird – he has claimed this role as his own (as we knew he would). In fact, the best thing about this production was the dancing. I'm tempted to single out Sara Lane's Generosity Fairy (Charity here), but really, all of the classical roles were beautifully done - compliments are due to the coaches whether it was Kirkland, Kolpakova or the entire staff.

As to the production itself – it was nowhere near as good as I had hoped and somewhat better than I had feared. Most of the scenery was beautiful – though it somehow managed to make the huge met stage look small and cramped. Some of it, especially the last act's scenery was way over the top. The costumes went from lovely (Aurora, Lilac and the fairies) to truly, truly awful (just about everything else). I'm not going to go into details on the staging – I'll leave that to those with more thorough knowledge of traditional productions. Let's just say that McKenzie tried for some very theatrical effects and they didn't work for me. Before tonight I doubt anyone ever thought to advise an AD that the Lilac Fairy shouldn't remind the audience of Peter Pan, but now it needs to be said.

Some interesting casting – in addition to Martine van Hamel as Carabosse we had Victor Barbee as Florestan, Susan Jaffe as his queen (she was wonderful),Wes Chapman as Catalabutte. The fairies were

Tenderness/Sincerity – Ricetto

Vivacity/Fervor – Kajiya

Generosity/Charity – Lane

Playfulness/Joy – Fang

Courage/Valor – Abrera

Good night all

Susan

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Thanks for your review, Susan.

I agree, the dancing, was exceptionally good. Part was magnificent -- regal, pure, and except for a little problem with deleve in her Vision variation (the same choreography Vishneva danced at the opening night gala), completely solid. She did not play it safe in the Rose Adagio, taking her time to hold the arms en couronne between each suitor. But it was her noble bearing and exquisite line that made this a performance to savor. Gomes was the perfect prince, despite curiosities in the staging that still have me wondering, "What the heck were they thinking?" :( ABT has many men worth watching just for watching's sake, none more than Gomes. But c'mon, guys! Let him do something besides walk around looking lost between the Hunt and the Vision.

As usual, we first meet the Prince Desire with his hunting party. Two servants are carrying their quarry, a stag with an arrow through its heart. Des withdraws the arrow and gets thoughtful. Is he vowing to become a vegan? :huh: The party exits, the stage fills with dry ice vapor, he falls asleep and four of the Fairy Knights from the Prologue dance (literal) circles around him. He wakes and joins them, does his aforementioned aimless wandering to the violin solo (best enjoyed without dance accompaniment). Then, somehow, the Vision (which included the pas, variation and coda, plus corps passages) seems to go by in a flash. Just doesn't make an impression.

For all that the creative team talked about streamlining the production, the curtain didn't fall until after 11:00. Yes, there were cuts, some missed and others not. But what I noticed more were the additions. The extended mime before the First Act, when the Queen beseeches the King not to banish the four girls (I believe they are supposed to be adolescents) who have just done a Maypole dance with the spindle lacks poetry, to say the least, and rings terribly untrue. The queen grabs the king's arm, strokes his face, cuddles up to him. When have we ever seen royalty display such physical intimacy except, say, when announcing an engagement or right after a wedding? And of course, the Queen has a major meltdown when Aurora falls asleep.

I don't know how they call this staging authentic and traditional. There are so many additions -- for example making the Fairy of Joy (or Songbirds) a sort of Second (to Lilac) among equals.

Just a few quibbles about the staging. :) I'll leave it to others to describe the sets and costumes in detail, but let's just note that my eyes still hurt :mad: . As I remarked to a friend, I was glad to have taken an Excedrin before I left home.

It's easy to see that this was a very expensive production. The money could have been put to much better use. Bring back the Skeaping version. :beg: Please!

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I can only echo what Susan has already mentioned. Watching Veronika's Rose Adagio was as heart-poundingly exciting as watching Olympic figure skating. All the talk up until that moment about whether or not she could do it made for an unpredictable, on the edge of my seat performance. She not only succeeded in executing the steps and balances, she exceeded everyone's expectations for what she is capable of. People stood up and applauded when she completed the Adagio.

The sets were gorgeous, but they could do without the shower curtain in the Prologue. I thought it was odd that Carabosse handed Aurora an undisguised spindle; other productions I’ve seen has the needle hidden in a bouquet of flowers. It doesn’t make sense…one would assume people would have warned her about playing around with spindles or someone would have snatched it away from her earlier. Carabosse’s minions looked like space creatures covered in florescent paint, and I thought the fire rockets to signify the witch’s entrance and exit were unnecessary. Many of the costumes were over the top, especially the period costumes, and the tutus would be better if they shook off some glitter.

The bluebird divertissement was the highlight of the wedding scene. Thankfully, there was little to no fluttering from Princess Florine, but bringing her out in a cage does not help dispel the myth that she is a bird. Having the other fairy tale characters reduced to background is a major detriment. The comedic timing is very off.

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This "Sleeping Beauty" was a mishmash of elements that while individually intriguing failed to gel into a coherent and satisfying whole. First of all you had the Petipa original, a Czarist spectacle celebrating classical ballet at its purest. You have the template of the Sergeyev version that streamlines the original stripping away some mime and theatrical bric-a-brac and Victorian accretions making it more pure dance. On top of these familiar elements you have Kevin McKenzie doing his Disney version with special effects, fast-moving action sequences and male bravura turns by the soloist and corps men (the "Elvadors" or "Fairy Knights" and the Huntsmen in the 2nd Act). On top of this you have Gelsey Kirkland's exploration of a young woman's psyche and emotional development with emphasis on her family relations with her parents. Then you have Michael Chernov's overlay of mythic references, Joseph Campbell hero journeys and Jungian symbolism. Throw in some already tacky looking sets with a mishmosh of colors and awkward angles by the usually reliable Tony Walton, some Disney-esque special effects, flying by Foy, pretty tutus for the girls by Willa Kim with ugly everything else, also in a mishmosh of colors that don't blend (a theme of the evening) and you have a big, big confused spectacle.

Luckily we had a serene lovely Aurora in Veronika Part who held her center while everything flew in different directions around her. Marcelo, who had a lot of the new material (set to unfamiliar possibly interpolated music) made the oddities he was enacting watchable and interesting. We will see how this stands up with the other men.

The time period is also confused. Rather than the Prologue being set in the 1600s, the period of Louis the Sun King and his court ballets (the beginning of classical dance according to some) and flashing forward 100 years to the 1700s, we start in the early 1400's when Europe was emerging from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. So Aurora could be seen as the first flowering of European culture. She then instead of being 116 when she wakes up, is actually 316 or more. Well, however old she is, she looks great.

Some of the new stuff isn't horrible. The Fairy Dance in the Prologue has been nicely rearranged with lots of lifts by the "Fairy Knights" making the fairies look like they are flying. The Garland Dance in the first act is acceptable and has some nice formations with the garlands. Not original but a nice use of traditional ideas and appropriate. It is when we hit the Hunt Scene in Act II that starts out with some bravura leaping by Prince Marcelo the Magnificent and his bounding, hunting corps boys that the new and often misguided ideas start to emerge. He gets all introverted after this buoyant entrance deciding he doesn't like courtiers or killing animals. Then things get weird with Marcelo drinking some dry ice from the stage floor and passing out in the middle of the hunt in an open field while "Elvadors" jeté around him in the Desiré/Florimund dream ballet. Aurora glides by in her fairy skiff sleeping while the Elvadors lift him up and around her. He then wakes up and the hunt scene ends with the courtiers going off without him and him giving in to his Albrecht/Siegfried/Hamlet like melancholy solo. On come the fairies from the prologue, the nymphs and finally the Lilac Fairy with all sorts of antics until we get to a fairly standard Vision Scene. Then again all hell breaks loose in the scene where he confronts Carabosse, her a literal Spider-Woman who lures him into her web - rather easily. In fact, he seems to be only saved by the Lilac Fairy's magic. Our hero reappears not reacting to almost being eaten alive by a huge spider and bounds on like nothing happened and kisses Aurora. The final acts divertissement cut down to the group entree and the Bluebird pas de deux is done on a stage within the stage making them very much part of the wedding entertainment. Frankly, the five or ten minutes that the cutting of the Puss n' Boots and White Cat and Little Red Riding Hood sequences saved could have been snipped from the new padding of "dramatic storytelling" sequences and by starting more promptly.

The sets, alas, were not as pretty as the early photos and drawings indicated and can't be scrapped. Some of the costumes do have to go. The rest of the problems can and will be fixed. But I don't think this ever can be a truly distinguished production and that is a shame.

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Yes, more please!! Hurray for Part and Gomes!!! :(

I thought it was odd that Carabosse handed Aurora an undisguised spindle; other productions I’ve seen has the needle hidden in a bouquet of flowers. It doesn’t make sense…one would assume people would have warned her about playing around with spindles or someone would have snatched it away from her earlier.

In Dowell's production for the Royal Ballet Carabosse also simply handed a spindle to Aurora. She may have been warned about playing with spindles but she probably had never seen one before to realize the danger.

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The sets were gorgeous, but they could do without the shower curtain in the Prologue.

That was my initial thought exactly -- a shower curtain. Maybe they will think that one over again.

Part and Gomes were absolutely beautiful together, and it was heartening to see Part's eye contact with him and with the audience and her dazzling smile. Her confidence grew literally by her leaps and bounds and culminated in a luxurious final pas with Gomes. The balances in the Rose, while far more secure than what we've seen previously from her, were minimal and really should be so much better. Her hops on point in whatever scene that was after the intermission were both awkward and labored. Her pirouettes were best and most secure when her she employed a rounded arm preparation and shorter fourth. She fought for everything--everything--and did not give up on one single thing the whole night. Basically, MacKenzie forced her to finally step up to plate as the #4 hitter and whack one out of the ball park for the benefit of the team. That she did.

I thought that Michelle Wiles was extraordinary, and that her transformation from our all-American beauty to a fairytale character was as complete as it gets. I could not get over how different and beautifully expressive her face was and the lyricism in her upper body. We take her feet and legs for granted, of course. Brava!

Now, about Martine. Could you believe this?!! What a show stealer! Did my eyes deceive me, or did those creatures really pick up 60+ year old Martine and literally heave her into the air? There were no wires on her. They heaved her! And yes, Susan Jaffe was just perfect, and how nice it was to see her grace the stage again. She still looks very youthful, and makes one think that she could just slap on those pointe shoes and give Aurora a whirl.

I found some of the choreography a bit ordinary and tiring. Maybe it was just tiring, because there is not much drama embedded in it. The costumes were stunning. Aurora's three tutus could have driven a fairytale by themselves.

What a nice surprise to see little Skylar Brandt given a child's solo in Act I. We've been watching her for several years in the kids' roles in Le Corsaire and other productions. It made it so much fun to see four generations of ABT's dancers in this production.

All in all, a more than satisfying evening.

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Is it too early to poll which production people like more: McKenzie/Kirkland/Chernov's or Martins'?

You know, McKenzie's productions of Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty make Martins look like Petipa.

Why is it that mear mortals think they know better than Petipa and Tchaikovsky?

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The cuts made to Aurora's Wedding led no build up to the Bluebird Pas de Deux.

Too much of the opening music was played to a closed curtain - there were only

16 wedding guests, called Courtiers, dressed alike in white and their promenade

steps were rather small in contrast to the expansive music. It's a shame to have

cut the fairy tale dances - the Cats, Red and the wolf, Cinderella and her Prince

were beautifully costumed and interacted with eachother charmingly. But that

was it. Florine/Reyes was brought out in a covered cage and Bluebird/Cornejo

let her out. She was suitibly grateful and danced as a princess showing no

birdlike tendencies. The dancing was superb.

The final scene is less satisfying than Martins. The kingdom is less populated

and a curious plot change prevented the King and Queen from attending the

wedding. The final tableau lacks the majesty it should have. And what they

do to Wiles is downright scary.....

So the curtain calls were watered down - we didn't get to applaud Jaffe, Barbee,

and Chapman. But we did get to thank the Directors --- especially Mckenzie,

Kirkland and Misha Chernov.

A very exciting evening - Bravo and Brava to all.

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Since others have given thorough reviews, I'll just add a few comments. Part and Gomes looked terrific together. I think she actually dances better when he's on the stage! Someone commented in the Bayadere reviews that he looks protective towards her. I see that too, and I think she responds with a glowing security. She looked fine during the Rose Adagio, although there wasn't a lot of real balancing going on there, you could see how quickly she moved her hand from one suitor to the next. Surely she's capable of doing better than that. Looked beautiful otherwise.

As to the child soloists, I thought little David Alvarez (I think that was his name -- don't have the program handy) had a beautiful presentation. I'm glad they didn't worry about the height differential when casting the kids! He didn't seem to notice it either, and looked the confident partner to his tall lady.

Michele Wiles... I guess I still just don't get her, but I didn't care for her Lilac Fairy at all. I wonder what happened to Murphy? I look forward to seeing Abrera, and I see Riccetto gets one performance as well, which I wish I could see.

Finally, as to Herman Cornejo as Bluebird, I'm just repeating what everyone else has said, but he is really dazzling!

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The final tableau lacks the majesty it should have. And what they

do to Wiles is downright scary.....

:angel_not: I think Michele was scared. For those who haven't seen it yet, at the end, Lilac "ascends."

I forgot to mention that the orchestra was superb. It sounded Met sized and looked like there might have been a few extra brass musicians in the pit. Ormsby Wilkins conducting is a performance to watch in itself. Edited to add that Joe Volpe, the former Met manager, was in the audience.

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.

Tenderness/Sincerity – Ricetto

Vivacity/Fervor – Kajiya

Generosity/Charity – Lane

Playfulness/Joy – Fang

Courage/Valor – Abrera

I will try to write a more full review later. But I just wanted to comment on the fairies as they have been rather neglected in the reviews so far.

I thought they were lovely. The fairy variations are some of my favorites, and I had been horribly disappointed in them when I saw NYCB's SB in the winter--they all looked the same--the different characters were blurred into "fairiness" instead of representing clearly the different gifts each fairy represents

Here the dancers, with the help of the choreography and of course the coaches, made each Fairy unique and unmistakable.

The real stand out in my eyes was Fang. Not because she was better than the other fairies, but rather because while I know it is a crowd pleaser, I have always intensely disliked the "canary fairy" who usually looks to me like she's having some sort of seizure on pointe.

Fang did all the requisite fluttering, but did it so beautifully and organically that she made it work and made me see the beauty of the part which is usually buried in the mannered movement.

I also liked the way that the character of each fairy was carried into the rest of their dancing in this version. Nicely done.

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Michele Wiles... I guess I still just don't get her, but I didn't care for her Lilac Fairy at all. I wonder what happened to Murphy?

The change in casts for tonight, with Gillian Murphy replacing Julie Kent, seems to have necessitated the switch of Murphy and Wiles.

Wiles is not one of my favorites, but I felt she did a good job as Lilac. She was generous and authoritative enough to pull off the role.

I thought they were rather cruel to leave her dangling there while the curtains reopened!!

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Perhaps they were trying to channel the premiere of "The Firebird", where the Firebird was supposed to fly over the wedding, and on the first night, the flying apparatus groaned and clanked, and Karsavina came to a dead stop over the scene. They had to rescue her with a ladder after the final curtain. There was no second night for that bit of business.

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Yes, more please!! Hurray for Part and Gomes!!! :angel_not:
I thought it was odd that Carabosse handed Aurora an undisguised spindle; other productions I’ve seen has the needle hidden in a bouquet of flowers. It doesn’t make sense…one would assume people would have warned her about playing around with spindles or someone would have snatched it away from her earlier.

In Dowell's production for the Royal Ballet Carabosse also simply handed a spindle to Aurora. She may have been warned about playing with spindles but she probably had never seen one before to realize the danger.

In the Kirov 1890-reconstruction, Carabosse also just hands the spindle to Aurora.

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In the old Messel production for RB, Aurora gets the spindle from Carabosse and inspects it minutely, suggesting she'd never seen one before, which would go with the ballet's libretto, and the four spinners at the act I curtain who are sheltered from royal view, but are eventually found out by the King, who orders their immediate execution.

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I truelly enjoyed last night even though the show, as other posters have noted, has some rather odd moments and strange design choices. Part and Gomes were wonderful together. We knew he would be and hoped she could be. Her rose adage wasn't one for the ages, you could see her balances were on the safe side, but it was servicable. And while the rose Adage may have just been good I thought the Pas was incredible. Everything looked spot on perfect and The one handed fish dives were just wonderful. Double en dedans turn and he'd scope her up and her feet went straight to the sky, straight up from the ground at 180+ degrees to make a beautiful picture. Bravo!

I liked the costumes on the solists and principals a great deal. They really were beautiful. I'm not so sure about the uniformity of the townsfolk and castle people. I know it's a fairy tale but surely they don't all shop at the same store.

Now I don't have tony awards sitting on my dresser at home but if I'm designing a million dollar production of sleeping beauty I don't make the central design concept of act 1 a 30 foot shower curtain. That being said I enjoyed the sets as well. I know it's not great theatre and the cohesion breaks down round about the time the prince wanders into the ballet but they're very pretty and entertaining in an eye-candy sort of way.

Where did the king and queen go to at the beginning of the big sleep? Did I miss them on stage. It's like they had dinner reservations and wandered off never to be seen again.

When the prince goes to find aurora is a mess. There are so many theatrical devices it just gets clunky. Moving scenery, light changes, flying fairies and spider web outfits, I hope this section gets worked out to some lesser degree of chaos.

The wedding scene was well danced from top to bottom. Most notebly with the bluebird pas. Everyone knew Cornejo would be wonderful as the bluebird when he was jumping but I think his partnering was solid enough to warrant a few more leads. Reyes was a wonderful partner for him and while she may not have incredible extension like the taller girls she has a rock solid center and she's a delight to watch.

ABT sure has some lovely dancers.

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When the prince goes to find aurora is a mess. There are so many theatrical devices it just gets clunky. Moving scenery, light changes, flying fairies and spider web outfits, I hope this section gets worked out to some lesser degree of chaos.

The wedding scene was well danced from top to bottom. Most notebly with the bluebird pas. Everyone knew Cornejo would be wonderful as the bluebird when he was jumping but I think his partnering was solid enough to warrant a few more leads. Reyes was a wonderful partner for him and while she may not have incredible extension like the taller girls she has a rock solid center and she's a delight to watch.

ABT sure has some lovely dancers.

Oh, that was a web costume? That section was confusing and distracting. A student or stuntman in siloette tangled in a spider's web (with Foy flying effects) would have been more effective, and immediately understandable. I thought he was goint to jump off and "fly" into the castle. He looked like a superhero.

The smoke effects filled the Met for over an hour, there must be a way to vent it up into the rope decks.

Costumes, beautiful, georgeous! A little quirky watching a Mazurka in baroque costumes, but it works!

Bluebird had a red breast, king and queen sparkled (they must have overslept, they missed their daughter's coronation!)

Fairys were great.

Spindle strangulation was a hoot! I think the peasants have more to worry about spindles than royalty.

Dancing:

Veronika redeemed herself after the gala fiasco, she deserves all kudos!

Wiles was great, I've never seen such s-l-o-w Lilac variations

Canaray was brilliant!

The men were up the usual ABT standards, perfection. The AD has added more men to a "Big Tutu" ballet without sacrifice.

Cornejo's Dream solo was brilliant.

The Mazurka troubled me, everyone seemed to be going through the motions and not getting into Character (literally). the mazurka is a big, brassy, number nad needs to be danced that way. I will say it was very clean.

Orchestra, pitch perfect. I agree there were more brass, which was enjoyable. Dream solo was beautiful!

Audience: Typical Boobs, taking photos, The Met needs to crack down on Cameras more. Cell phones going off, and almost 50 percent left before the curtain calls, including the idiots in front of me.

Scenery/tech: the stage techs need to speak softly and use quiet rubber wheels to move the sets, pyro was great! Scenery was beautiful, realistic, colorful and lifelike.

Story/Plot true to original, how do they all dress so nice after all spindles are banished? What is a spindle?

Conclusion, a beautiful ballet that will remain in the repetoire for decades, will do well when the company tours. excellent candidate for a HD/bluray DVD and hi-def broadcast on PBS.

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In response to jilaney and MJ: the plot synopsis in the program says that the King and Queen are told by Lilac Fairy that they must leave the kingdom and leave Aurora to her destiny, and the Queen cries a river of tears that Prince Desire will drink from. :angel_not: It was sad to not include their presence at the wedding.

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In response to jilaney and MJ: the plot synopsis in the program says that the King and Queen are told by Lilac Fairy that they must leave the kingdom and leave Aurora to her destiny, and the Queen cries a river of tears that Prince Desire will drink from. :angel_not: It was sad to not include their presence at the wedding.

Boy is that overthinking nonsense. I hope that lot of time was not spent miming that. It makes me fell like "just dance."

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