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REVIEWS: The Sleeping Beauty


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These reviews are extremely discouraging, and they are so uniformly focussed that I see no reason to doubt what any of them say. I have a ticket for this Saturday night, with Hallberg, Vishneva, and Cornejo - all of whom I've seen before on happier occasions. It was not a cheap seat, and I will incur the additional expenses of transportation, parking, and dinner - none of which I will mind paying if the experience is artistically worth while, but if not, I'd just as soon try to sell my ticket at the door and recoup whatever expenses I can. Most likely I will see this, but may I ask a blunt question, and then a follow-up:

Blunt question: If you had seen this production already, are there sufficient redeeming features that you would recommend it to someone who had not seen it, or would you suggest it best be avoided?

Follow-up: What would you suggest as the best available VHS or DVD of SB, possibly one following the Kirov reconstruction as mentioned in Mary Cargill's review?

Thanks.

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Klavier - several people on the thread have seen it and enjoyed it, even if I wasn't one of them. It seems the best way is to stay focused on the dancers rather than the production (ah yes, the great survival tactic in ballet for the past two decades :pinch: )

I can't recommend a DVD but right now I'd recommend seeing the Royal Ballet's Beauty. It's "traditional"; I put that in quotes merely because the tradition developed differently in Britain once Sergeyev set the ballet there. The steps are somewhat different than what a Russian dancer would know as "traditional" but the production is coherent and resonant. Londoners have some quibbles when compared to the original de Valois/Messel version from '46, but compared to what you'll get almost anywhere else I think you will be content. Even better, the more the company dances it, the more confident they are becoming with it.

It's a good excuse to go to Paris and London in April (I'll take any!)

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Klavier - several people on the thread have seen it and enjoyed it, even if I wasn't one of them...

I enjoyed the second Part, but only by blocking out everything that wasn't her. So I saw a precis of a great ballet, while some other stuff was going on on stage.

But, even one critic liked the ballet that was actually going on. See the Newsday review on Links:

...Kevin McKenzie has wisely chosen to share his choreographic duties, bringing on onetime prima ballerina Gelsey Kirkland and theater director Michael Chernov. As you'd expect when three smart people are all in charge, this "Sleeping Beauty" is at once visionary and not quite finished, with technical details to clean up. Still it's wonderful and rare to be offered such a vision... accumulating force through imaginative detail.

ABT's "The Sleeping Beauty" tells its story clearly, wisely and with an infectious delight in old-fashioned stage machinery. It also celebrates the origins of ballet - less in the French court of King Louis XIV than in the fairyland of the unconscious.

The fairies prevail in the prologue, set in the king's palace, and in the dream scene - the heart of this version - when Princess Aurora meets Prince Desiré in her sleep and charges him with the vigor to fend off the evil fairy, Carabosse, and rescue her from eternal slumber. In the wedding scene, the couple emerges from the subterranean world of hope and fear to join a pantheon of fairy-tale characters, stepping straight from feeling into art and skipping the world altogether, as dance often does.

... McKenzie and team have woven a web of meaning that promises to deepen the magic.

Apollinaire Scherr:

http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/arts/...-arts-headlines

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I am also going to see on Wed night with Vishneva, and I'm hoping the dancing compensates. At least we're combining with a tour etc at Barnard so the trip is not a waste. I'm thinking I shoulda stayed home and gone to the PA Ballet, as they are also doing SB this week.

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These reviews are extremely discouraging, and they are so uniformly focussed that I see no reason to doubt what any of them say. I have a ticket for this Saturday night, with Hallberg, Vishneva, and Cornejo - all of whom I've seen before on happier occasions. It was not a cheap seat, and I will incur the additional expenses of transportation, parking, and dinner - none of which I will mind paying if the experience is artistically worth while, but if not, I'd just as soon try to sell my ticket at the door and recoup whatever expenses I can. Most likely I will see this, but may I ask a blunt question, and then a follow-up:

Blunt question: If you had seen this production already, are there sufficient redeeming features that you would recommend it to someone who had not seen it, or would you suggest it best be avoided?

Follow-up: What would you suggest as the best available VHS or DVD of SB, possibly one following the Kirov reconstruction as mentioned in Mary Cargill's review?

Thanks.

Hi Klavier, I saw Friday night’s opening night as well as the Saturday matinee. I also have a ticket for this Saturday night with Vishneva. Everyone has their own take on the ballet, scenery, costumes, choreography, and of course the dancing. I have seen a number of different Sleeping Beauty productions over the years so I am hardly a newcomer to this ballet. I am happy to report that I enjoyed both performances so far, and look forward to Saturday night’s cast as well.

Don’t sell your ticket. Go and enjoy the ballet, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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I'm glad I'm not Letterman having to rank those, Leigh.

Why doesn't this happen, though, to a throwaway "ballet" instead of Petipa?

My theory is that people don't care enough about throwaway ballets to ruin them. With friends like these....

And as far as comparing the Martins' SB to the McKenzie Triumvirate's, I think that is futile. It sounds as if one might just as well ignore them both and wait for the Maryinsky or Royal to tour.

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Just back from NYC and weekend of many ballets at NYCB + a first look at ABT's new 'Sleeping Beauty' last night (Monday, June 4).

Nutshell

Huge disappointment of a production, in both design and steps/staging. Wonderful dancing by the troupe, particularly (a) Bluebird pdd pair Reyes/Cornejo and (b) Stella Abrera's beautiful Lilac Fairy. Veronika Part's Aurora did not disappoint; then again, she did not 'wow' me - just got through the difficult parts cleanly.

Details

I knew that we were in for trouble when the monarch enters the palace & he is none other than Burger King, complete with huge gold crown seeming made of plastic (or paper?), brown beard and royal-blue-and-gold robe. So this is the Land of the Whopper? Whatever, it is the Land of the Misguided Stagers all around. From the medieval setting in the first two scenes, to unaristocratic actions by royalty ('Burger King' mimes the anger that is normally expressed by his servant, Catalabutte, for example), to a tiny-scaled Carabosse (sorry, Gelsey Kirkland - it just ain't your role), to flights all over the place, to more Day-Glo colors on costumes than can be seen even in an ice-dancing competition, to a miserably truncated final act (not even the essential Cats pdd is spared), to nonsensical drama (Lilac, rather than the nurses presents the baby; Princess Florine -- a human, not a bird -- is presented in a cage, while her avian lover, the Bluebird, walks on -- the staging team does not know Fairy Tales 101), to...you get the picture.

The first scene, the Prologue, is set in heavy-ish blue-and-lilac court with animal figures on the ceiling. A flimsy lilac 'shower curtain' parts to signal the entrance of the fairies in their day-glo tutus. They are 'flown in' by male fairies. [Let's see -- this comes from either the Australian Ballet or POB videos -- we could write a long article on what-video-inspired-what, but I don't have time to do so.] Luckily, the spectacular Stella Abrera's Lilac -- dancing the traditional ca-1923 Mariinsky-Kirov solo by Lopukhov -- saves the day. The other fairies performed with mixed results, from the gorgeous legatto of Melissa Thomas' 'Charity Fairy' (aka Breadcrumb Fairy) to the over-cutesiness of the much-touted Sarah Lane as Canari, who seemed a beat behind her 'sisters' in the ensemble portions (or perhaps appeared that way because she is markedly shorter than the rest?). The special effects for Carabosse's entrance and exit had the effect of laughter where I was seated (mid-center orchestra). It was great to see Kirkland after all of these years but she barely conveyed an ounce of menace as all of the other fairies -- including Lane -- towered above her. Her slimy monster-court came straight from 'Star Wars.'

Act I is a summertime coutyard of a Disneyesque castle, complete with oh-so-cute little stone bridge, where characters could pose before descending the walls to dance on stage. [somebody inspired by the footbridge in Act I of Ashton's 'Sylvia,' no doubt.] This is when the official Team Colors of Burger King's court are revealed: Mustard and Aqua. Imagine this yummy combination! Almost everyone from the four knitting-women to the garland peasants to the courtiers wears this combo. Only Aurora and her eight ladies-in-waiting, in pale pink, are spared the Team Colors. Oh, and we cannot forget the four visitors to the court -- the princes have their own hideous costumes, each in a primary color that equates to each of the Teletubbies on TV: blue, purple, yellow and red. And how many of you noticed that the Garland Men sported suspenders made of daisies? (One can only imagine how much fun the corps men are having backstage with this production!) Even the supers could not quite blend into the woodwork: they wore 'medieval knight' armor and blue-winged helmets straight from a ca-1900 production of Wagner's 'Lohengrin.'

The nonsensical stage action continues, as Lilac casts her spell over the entire court - except for two of the characters: the Burger King and Queen do not sleep but, rather, follow the Lilac Fairy offstage as the curtain falls. I supposed that they die; that must be why they do not appear at their daughter's wedding in Act III? (Were they in the Awakening Scene of Act II? Don't remember them there.)

We're only half-way there. Lots more to report!

Act II - A Forest in Autumn - Finally a tasteful, cohesive design (at least for the initial Hunt portion)! The courtier-ladies' rich red/gold/orange gowns work well with the autumnal backdrop of trees and winding river. The courtier men wore tasteful muted jackets and tights. Almost ALL of the Hunt Scene numbers are performed; only the Farandole is missing, I think. So far so good. Then the hunters go off & leave the prince alone by the river. One sip of water & he hallucinates, to the rare 'Awakening Entre'acte' music -- and THAT's when the first of two Big Macy's Floats appears: Aurora's silver bed chug-chugs across the stage! Soon after, a rather traditional Vision Scene takes place with Aurora-Part in especially fine form and the corps of Naiads quite wonderful and in-sync. THEN it's time for Big Macy's Float #2: the Jumbo Silver Eagle's Wing that masquerades as Lilac Fairy's boat. (Huh?) We have a bit of Panorama music before a series of chiffon panels are noisily ("squeek - squeek") put into place, setting the stage for Levitation #1: Carabosse-Gelsey flies (very s-l-o-w-l-y) into view and entraps the Prince in a flourescent-pink cobweb high up on the bridge of the castle. Luckily, the Prince fights back & Gelsey-Carabosse s-l-o-w-l-y floats down to her death. Prince kisses Aurora. Time for the wedding...

Act III - Wild Tribute to the Mariinsky Theater - A Roccoco Symphony in Blue/Gold swirls with white terra-cotta cupids above all! At the center of the ballroom is a miniature theater, with a curtain slightly reminiscent of the Mariinsky Theater. Aurora & the Prince wear gorgeous white outfits with highlights in aqua-blue and gold. As Aurora, Veronika Part dances with the elegance and command of a true Mariinsky ballerina, gallantly partnered by Marcelo Gomes' Prince Desire. And the aforementioned Cornejo/Reyes brought down the house in Bluebird pdd. That's where the resemblance with all-things-Mariinsky end.

The cuts are unpardonable. After so much use of rare music in the earlier acts (cited above), why on earch cut some of the most basic of the wedding divertissements? The Bluebird pdd and (of course) Aurora-Prince pdd are kept but not the Jewels Fairies (aka Florestan and Two Sisters) or the Cats pdd or Red Riding Hood/Wolf pdd. The latter two teams appear on the stage in only the initial group Polonaise and final Mazurka, but their main dancing is totally cut. The first group (Jewels) is totally omitted. Cinderella/Prince Charming, Hop O' My Thumb/Man-Eater Couple are not vital (even though Cinders/Charming appear in the Polonaise & Mazurka groups)...but Cats? Red/Wolf? Jewels? This is especially sad for the White Cat, as the bits of group dancing that we saw last night revealed a high-jumping, little-known dancer: Hee Seo. Wow! Where did SHE come from? Obviously not from the Land of the Whopper.

It all ends with Levitation #2 -- a flimsy-scary one at that. As Aurora & the Prince receive their crowns and robes, the Lilac Fairy rises to hover above, maintaining a royal-purple scarf over their heads. Hang on, Stella!!!

Sum

In all seriousness, ABT's 'Sleeping Beauty' is a very sad, absolute-lowpoint in a year of many lows in the Ballet Universe (including NYCB's recent R+J and the Kirov's Golden Age less than a year ago). At least the Bolshoi's wondrous DC season (esp Osipova/Vasiliev), Ashley Bouder's triumphs at NYCB, reports of the Kirov's 'Flora' -- and all else with Obraztsova -- serve to balance-off the lowlights. Now I will try to forget the crap and look to the future. But not before...

p.s. I predict that this 'Sleeping Beauty' will have an even briefer shelf-time than did Makarova's unfortunate production for the Royal Ballet ca 2002/03. That one was replaced within three or four years. Let's hope that even less time will pass before we see a 'Sleeping Beauty' that is worthy of ABT.

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I went last night (6/4/07) and saw the Part/Gomes/Abrera cast.

Before I begin, I have to say how exciting it was to see the great Gelsey Kirkland live on stage. I have read both of her books several times and I have watched her "Nutcracker" with Baryshnikov over and over again, I almost feel like I know her. She took command of the stage from the moment she walked on and contrary to other posters, I found her Carabosse frightening.

I love the pairing of Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes! I have seen them in "Swan Lake", "La Bayadere", and now, "Beauty". I attended the Opening Night Gala, so I was so happy and relieved to see Veronika's beautiful Rose Adagio last night. I thought I saw some hesitation at the very beginning, but she kept getting stronger and stronger and I thought she was radiant throughout. I loved her Nikiya two weeks ago. In my post for La Bayadere, I wrote that I could tell when she was thinking and I could tell when she just letting the music take over and dance. Last night, I believe she just simply danced to the music. She was beautiful and (contrary to the NY Times) I never found her boring. Marcelo Gomes IS a prince - on and off the stage - so this role fit him perfectly. Their Act III Pas de deux made me cry.

Bravo Gelsey, Veronika, and Marcelo! :clapping:

Overall, I felt that the production was missing something. I saw "Sleeping Beauty" last summer at the Kennedy Center in DC with the Royal Ballet. I felt that the Royal gave a much more complete version of the ballet. Last night, it seemed that Aurora's kingdom was underpopulated. I also missed the other dances in Act III. One disappointment is that I would have loved to have seen Hee Seo dance more than what she did as The Cat. However, the magnificent performances of Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes almost made up for that!

Stella Abrera was good as the Lilac Fairy. Last summer, I had the pleasure of seeing Marianela Nunez and her dazzling smile. Compared to her, Stella left me very cold. She was regal and majestic, but I feel that the Lilac Fairy should be a warmer figure who should set the tone of "Hey - don't worry - everything is going to be alright!"

Sarah Lane as the Fairy of Joy was great!

I am also going to see the Wednesday evening performance with Diana!

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Any more reviews of Gelsey's performance?

I'm going Friday night. Disappointed so far with the reviews of the staging, costumes, etc.

everyone's taste is different.

I apparently liked it way more than most here, but I haven't want to get in the way of all the fun everyone is having critiqueing it. :clapping:

I will say however that I loved the costumes on the whole. Now granted, I like glitter--I'm a magpie--but I thought they were lovely with the Major Exception of the courtiers in the final act. These costumes made the dancers look like dancing meringues...NOT attractive.

I also liked the sets on the whole though was not a fan of the shower curtain, and felt that they did (as the NY Sun review criticized and some have here) make the stage look small and cramped at times.

It's a fairy tale, the "disney-ness" of the sets didn't seem inappropriate or out of place to me. Then again I grew up with Disney and his Sleeping Beauty is probably my favorite of the Disney classics.

The boat is pretty horrible though!!

No comment on Gelsey as unfortunately I won't be seeing her (seeing Martine Van Hamel both times I go), but I wish I was!

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It's a good excuse to go to Paris and London in April (I'll take any!)

Don't forget the Royal Ballet's US tour this summer. They're doing Sleeping Beauty 7/5-7/7 in San Antonio, Texas:

http://www.artssanantonio.com/

The RB brings out the dramatic qualities of the ballet that you don't really see in the Sergeyev production. For me, the Lilac Fairy-Carabosse interactions and mime, and its symbolic relationship to the whole ballet, alone are worth the price of admission.

After reading all these impressions, I'm looking forward to ABT's visit with Sleeping Beauty this summer to California, in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way.

--Andre

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After reading all these impressions, I'm looking forward to ABT's visit with Sleeping Beauty this summer to California, in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way.

--Andre

Bringing this Sleepy Beauty to Disney Land will be like taking coal to Newcastle.

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I also liked it, although this is embarrassing to confess, given the criticisms that are pouring forth. I loved Marcelo and Veronika on opening night, and have tickets for Vishneva and Hallberg tomorrow night, and Murphy and Hallberg on Saturday. So as to whether to go, my recommendation is yes!

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Just back from NYC and weekend of many ballets at NYCB + a frist look at ABT's new 'Sleeping Beauty' last night (Monday, June 4).

This review is so funny I'll have to go. . . . too bad they closed down the Burger King on Amsterdam and 68th. . . .

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I do have to disagree that the ballet of The Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale, in the traditional sence. It is an allegory, and a mythic one at that, with a very simple but profound message, that the letter (i.e. a narrowly defined justice as exemplified by Carabosse) kills but the spirit (in the form of the radiant Lilac, and in the original version, in Aurora's forgiveness of Carabosse) lives. It is an homage to reason and order, which is so miraculously exemplified in Petipa's glorious corps formations. It is a very different ballet than Swan Lake, which is a fairy tale (from Grimm, not the awful ABT version). Nature, in the Lilac Fairy, is a force for good, whereas in ballets like Giselle and especially Swan Lake, the natural world is a place of mysterious danger--Medieval rather than Enlightenment. One of the many reasons why ABT's setting of both Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake are so counter productive. Mary

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This review is so funny I'll have to go. . . . too bad they closed down the Burger King on Amsterdam and 68th. . . .

Well, Klavier, I must confess that I made the mistake of whispering 'It's Burger King!" to the two ladies seated beside me during last night's performance & they had a really hard time stiffling the giggles. I kept biting my tongue. Lesson to all: Please do not sit next to me during performances, especially in performances of cheesy-gaudy productions!

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LOL. The King also looked a little like the Kramer (from Seinfeld), when he wore the coat from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and was bopping down the streat looking like a pimp. Not a surprise most of Willa Kim's credits are from Broadway.

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I do have to disagree that the ballet of The Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale, in the traditional sence. It is an allegory, and a mythic one at that, with a very simple but profound message, that the letter (i.e. a narrowly defined justice as exemplified by Carabosse) kills but the spirit (in the form of the radiant Lilac, and in the original version, in Aurora's forgiveness of Carabosse) lives...[i, Aurora, edited here] It is a very different ballet than Swan Lake, which is a fairy tale (from Grimm, not the awful ABT version).

Not to quibble, but fairy tales often (in fact I would say usually) have allegorical signficance to them.

Being that Sleeping Beauty is based on a tale by Charles Perrault (17th c) and more closely follows the version by the brothers Grimm (1812), I'm not sure why you argue that it is not a fairy tale in contrast to Swan Lake, which is, as you say, also a Grimm fairy tale.

I have no disagreement with your statement that they are very different ballets, but their differences do not make one a fairy tale and the other not. At least in my opinion.

I'm not trying to be argumentative. However since you took issue with my statement that the Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale, a fairly universally held opinion, I'm curious as to why/how you make this distinction. And felt the need to point out that the mythic/allegorical content of fairy tales has been the subject of scholarly discussion in recent years.

--Aurora

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LOL. The King also looked a little like the Kramer (from Seinfeld), when he wore the coat from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and was bopping down the streat looking like a pimp. Not a surprise most of Willa Kim's credits are from Broadway.

Yes but she designed a lot for San Francisco Ballet, going back many years now, and I expected better from her. :clapping:

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My point is that the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty was the starting point, and that the very simplified libretto and the staggering music make it something much more profound. It is not a Disney tale, it is much more of an allegory or a myth of regeneration. It is just so much richer than any story could be.

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.....something much more profound. It is not a Disney tale, it is much more of an allegory or a myth of regeneration. It is just so much richer than any story could be.

Absolutely right, Mary. This fact makes the simpletonish aura of the ABT production all the more insulting.

The greatest of the great, for me, remains the Kirov-Mariinsky's 1890 'new-old' production, especially as performed in its home theater, in all of its glory. Even the constantly-changing lighting of the little chandeliers above every box in the auditorium play into the magnificence of that original Beauty. We the audience -- the 'extra courtiers' -- regale in the courtliness of it all, promenading in leisurely fashion during intermission in a grand hall, etc. It was a life-changing experience for me, even after 30-plus years of attending performances of 'Beauty' around the world. ABT's new production of 'Beauty' left me with the exact-opposite feeling: I felt like the normal, 21st-C working-class consumer of mass pop culture (Disney, burgers, etc.). Not at all a leisurely, aristocratic experience.

'BEAUTY' IS NOT INTENDED TO BE POP CULTURE! Write it down on the blackboard 1,000 times over, Kevin McKenzie and team!

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About that boat: It did not look like a swan to me but some kind of chimera -- an eagle (or other raptor, given the sharp, curved beak) with horse's legs and hooves. Alexandra -- or anyone else with a grounding in mythological creatures and symbols -- what is this about? Possibly nothing, to judge from the rest of this production, but who knows? It may hold the key that helps make sense of this rehallucinating -- uh, reinterpretation. Something about earth and sky, maybe? :clapping:

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