Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

REVIEWS: The Sleeping Beauty

Recommended Posts

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:

I got the impression that it was a griffin. Definately not a swan. My other impression was that it was in the shape of a harp and that it was some kind of musical allusion. Perhaps not.

Link to comment
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

For me, it is still my beloved fairy tale and and I find much is lost if one tries to read too much into it...I quote below a small section of an essay written by Tamara Karsavina about her first appearance in SB as a child...

"In fact, the story of 'The Sleeping Beauty' has still the same enchantment for me now as in those far-off days before I knew of all the erudition that both it and Perrault's other tales have given rise to. What do I care that in half a hundred countries spinning at certain times of year was an evil omen and was even at those times forbidden; or that the story had its counterpart in Moldavian, Hindu, German and other folk-lore? What does it matter to me that scholiasts would turn the whole bewitching fairy-tale into a kind of glorified weather report--the Princess, the Spring, falling into a deep hibernal sleep; the Prince, the Sun, piercing through the darkness of winter and awakening to life the light and love and happiness of Spring? To me it is still the dear old simple fairy story which I loved as a child in Perrault's homely narrative and which I saw come to life that evening long ago when, drinking in the inspiration of Tchaikovsky's music and intuitively aware of the multiple glory of Petipa's masterpiece, I waited in the wings, a scared but ambitious imp, bursting to astonish the world with my hair-raising leaps." (Sleeping Beauty, 1949 Morrison & Gibb Ltd.)

Link to comment

Thank you, atm. The sense of enchantment in that passage is yet another reason I feel born too late. I'm sure I would have loved Karsavina, as so many did.

I found a "Hippogriff" defined as:

A winged horse with the head and claws of an eagle. (The head, wings and front legs of a griffin, and the back legs of a horse.) An elusive creature that can fly long distances at high altitudes.

Did it look like that?

No, this thing was mostly a bird of prey with only the front legs and hooves of a horse/mule/zebra. The body was feathered, and the wings, which were perpendicular to the floor (as if to suggest sails) did not look like eagle wings, at least to this most casual observer of birds.

Here's a Wikipedia illustration of a hippogriff, which is not what the boat looked like.

Link to comment

Just because Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale does not mean it has to be Disneyfied. The great thing about it is that one can look at it simply, without reading any layers into it (thus it does not need to be dumbed down) or one can go through and find all the symbolism one likes; it appeals either way.

Link to comment

Klavier, Judging from what I've read and I've heard, ABT's SB is, production wise, rather a disaster. However I, too, have tickets for Sat. night and am planning to go despite all that had been said. First of all, Diana Vishneva is performing and this season she is dancing beautifully and I look forward to seeing what she can do with this role, despite all the choreographic/story alterations that have taken place. I'd also like to see what Kirland has to offer, peformance wise. As Leigh Witchel says, if for no other reason, go to see the dancers.

As for other versions of SB (especially those on tape or DVD), I happen to be partial to the Kirov's SB, especially a performance from 1992 (on DVD) , which features the beautiful Larissa Lezhnina as Aurora and Yulia Makhalina as the Lilac Fairy. Lezhnina is beautiful, charming, youthful and extremely good technically (her Rose Adagio is lovely to watch) while Makhalina is gentle, gracious but yet authoritative in her role. If you feel disappointed after Sat. night, I'd recommend renting or buying this Kirov DVD.

Link to comment

I'd like to add a few comments after seeing tonight's performance in which Murphy replaced Kent. The Gottlieb review covers the problems with the production well. The shower curtain, the cramped look of the stage, etc.

On the positive side - It's great to have Steifel back. Murphy was much better than I expected. I've liked her in Sylvia and some other things but didn't expect to like her as Aurora. I thought she glowed in a fiesty Irish princess sort of way (I enjoyed it). She and Steifel had some moments that actually brought me to tears. Lane was terrific in Bluebird, althought her partner, Lopez, seemed quite nervous. Wiles was good in some sections but seemed almost small in some ways. I wish Part had been cast as Lilac. It seems almost perverse not to have her do it at least once.

What a terrible production. Others have gone into more details that I don't need to reiterate.

Question - Do you think that Murphy's performances were affected by the fact that she expected to do one Aurora and be first cast for Lilac, but instead will do 3 Aurora's and no Lilacs? Was she the "just in case there is an injury" Aurora?

Thank you everyone - I love your posts!!

Link to comment

Like Vipa, I also enjoyed Murphy tonight, perhaps more for her technical ability than her bright and cheerful representation of Aurora. I enjoy watching such a thoroughly solid dancer.

Surprisingly enough, I also found myself warming up to Michele Wiles (Lilac) more than I ever have before! I'm pondering over why this is, and I wonder if it's because I typically see her when either Part or Vishneva is also dancing (because those are the performances I buy tickets for), and she suffers by comparison with the soulful Russians. Whatever the cause, I enjoyed her tonight. I did notice her smile getting noticeably tense when she was hoisted up, though. What a trouper! And how is it that she missed her curtain call??

Sarah Lane -- as P. Florine was lovely. My only problem was her smile -- too big, too bright, too much. Please, Sarah -- don't get overly cute on us!

The production has been so thoroughly trashed at this point, perhaps further commentary is superfluous, but I can't help but single out that awful green kilt, with the rhinestone breastplate, purple feather boa, and curly red wig. I feel sorry for the guy who gets assigned to wear that outfit!

Link to comment

Went tonight. It's obviously not the best production, but I must say, It's better than Peter Martin's version. I actually enjoyed most of the costumes, especially the wedding pas costumes. I was sad not to see Julie Kent, but overjoyed to see Ethan!! He looks fabulous. Gillian, while I still didn't LOVE HER, she impressed me. Her upper body has gotten so much better. She did a much better job than I had expected. Michelle Wiles was quite nice as Lilac. I enjoyed all of her variations and her upper body had something so nice about it...made me wish she had been given an Aurora...Sarah Lane was AMAZING as Princess Florine..again made me wish she had been given an Aurora...Lopez was just plain awful as Blue Bird..I'm sorry but he was. Nothing about him was pleasing, nothing. Over all the dancing was nice. My biggest annoyance was the Shower Curtian and the random flying of Lilac and Caraboose. But over all, I was entertained and I thought the dancing was at a good level, so I enjoyed it. I would see it again just to see Ethan back on stage....

Link to comment

Gilian was solid, but she wears an odd expression on her face at times.. it's neither a smile or a showing of calm. It almost looks as she is exasperated or something a lot of the time... like the expression English nobility pastes on their face.

Which brings me to expressions of dancers. They need to stop over doing their facial expressions. It starts looking cartoonlike a silly. Nobody in life holds a smile for minutes on end. Their expressions need to change and not stick on as long as they do and not be so damn exaggerated. Perhaps they look as they do because I see them with binocs and without them the expressions might not be as odd. It may be OK to hold and freeze a position as the corps has to do... but can't they do something with their expressions.... all of them (with the exception of Ethan). I loved Kristi Boone as the cat and her face was very good as well.

Yea the sets were too disneylike. Their designer needs to study the MetOpera sets when they remake a classic like the Barber of Seville which was on PBS this past week or two... they use classical elements with minimal sets to great effect without making a mockery of a classic.

The actual perspectives of the sets were completely off an looked amateurish approaching the NYCBs Romeo and Juliet for poor sets. Why so many set changes? WOW a huge shower curtain... who came up with that one? Or was it the famous $6,000 Tyco Denis Koslowski one put to use. You can see why he did time for buying that one. Hahaha. The costumes ranged from interesting to awful, but were very colorful... Loved the tutus.

Ethan Stiefal is wonderful and was very comfortable in the role. Sarah Lane was exceptional as Florine.

It's worth seeing but I would rather see Diana Vishneva as Aurora.

Audience note:

Some idiot's cell phone went off (grand tier) and started repeating a long message before the jerk turned it off. Amazing how inconsiderate people are and addicted to the cell phones. When I go to the Met I don't even take it. Remember when you used a pay phone if you had to make a call outside? And lots of cell phone picture taking too. I curse the day they invented those things.

Link to comment
but I can't help but single out that awful green kilt, with the rhinestone breastplate, purple feather boa, and curly red wig.

That's what Elmer Fudd would wear on the golf course.

We have Tchaikovsky's score, Petipa's choreography, and the best Dancers in the world.

What if there was a production faithful to the original - set against a blue cyclorama -

the dancers wearing practice clothes. A minimal Beauty. Would you attend?

Link to comment

Back to the performance of 6/5/07-

G. Murphy was definitely solid with her extremely strong, excellent technique, but as an Aurora she doesn't fit the role for me. She's handsome, a big, bold girl, instead of being very pretty and very feminine, but Murphy danced/acted the Aurora part far better than I was expecting. Must admit, I kept drifting off into visions of Murphy instead as Lilac Fairy.... in a P. Martins' or The Royal's production.

E. Steifel, yes, danced very comfortably in his role, with all the elegance of a prince charming with fine, clean technique. I'm ready to see him take more risks now..... push some of his safe boundaries.... But, definitely, it was terrific to see him back dancing well.

And whoever set the wedding penchee kiss for these two, thank you! It was much improved with Aurora embracing her prince's face with her hand and a gentle kiss.

Back to taking risks.... I won't go into it too much.... but it was not S. Lane's best Florine -- nowhere near as wonderful as the one she danced last Saturday (6/2 mat). Lane was lovely, pretty, but she didn't go that extra mile she's capable of with her best jumps, best turns and stunningly long, yet musical balances that were so impressive over the weekend.

One of the great lessons for any young dancer is learning consistency.... esp if they want to be a soloist, or principal. No two performances will ever be the same, but each one should be exciting and thrilling... the dancer's best, or nearly their very best. S. Lane took a safer approach last night and turned on her prettiness/acting almost excessively instead of delivering her full potential technically. Thought her partner, C. Lopez, was dull, but he's a very good partner.... sigh. Herman still has much work to do in that department and the ADs probably felt safer pairing Herman with the more experienced (and consistent) Reyes, though that pairing is not too attractive. I do hope to catch Hee Seo's Florine this weekend....

> brings me to expressions of dancers.

Anything overdone, is going to look odd and distracting. Dancers are taught, coached, on everything, including their faces.... how they must be as humanly natural as possible (changing expression to fit the moment) while also being inhumanly technical and a fantasy of beauty. No small task....

Link to comment


Hey all,

I know the production is generally hated here, but the levels of sarcasm and condescension towards the idea anyone could possibly like this production are making it a bit difficult for anyone who didn't hate it to get up the courage to say so.

Considering what a generally civil and enjoyable place ballettalk is to post, I just thought I would put this out there.

I'm not meaning to suggest that people shouldn't voice their distaste, just that the rather snarky tone that has emerged in some posts is quelling a fuller discussion of the production.

Link to comment

actually, i disagree. if i had seen it and liked it, i would have no problem saying so. no one is criticizing anyone who said they liked any particular element of it. i don't see what you're saying. some have said they liked things about it. i think they've come through unscathed.

so did you like it? what did you like, and why?

Link to comment
actually, i disagree... some have said they liked things about it. i think they've come through unscathed.

You are right. I tried to word my reply carefully, and I don't want to single out specific comments, as that seems inappropriate. But to clarify, I did not mean to imply that anyone had attacked anyone for liking it. Rather that there has been some meanspiritedness and revelling in the critiques, and that the attitude expressed by some posters has been that only an idiot could possibly enjoy this production ;)

To be fair, I found McCauley's (sp) criticism of Part rather mean spirited as well (though given the context not inimical to debate). Boring? What does that mean? It is such a value judgement and says very little--there are plenty of other criticisms that would have been much more elucidating. Was she too careful? overly cautious? Saying boring is all about his response, not her dancing (He also said she was unmusical, which I find incomprehensible) With that sidenote aside you also asked...

so did you like it? what did you like, and why?

I did like it. I think there are flaws, but I didn't find it the train wreck so many did.

I only have seen it once so far (opening night) and will be going again tonight so my opinions may change somewhat, but I'm leaving town obscenely early tomorrow so I figure I might as well post about it now.

The scenery. I liked it. Despite contentions otherwise, in my opinion SB is a fairy tale, and as such I found them both lovely and appropriate. Yes they are cartoony, but I found them charming. I *do* agree with the oft-made complaint that they cramp the stage at times. Given the size of the MET's stage I found that a bit disturbing. But aesthetically I enjoyed them.

I agree the showercurtain (hehe) is unattractive, and pointless. I also couldn't understand why, if they were going to use a curtain, they picked such an ugly one. And I thought the final act set looked a bit too flat and fake. It didn't look as expensive as it obviously was.

The costumes. I loved them! I said this before but I *do* love sparkling things. I did not find them so glittery as to distract from the dancing. I thought Carabosse's bugs were ingenious. They were over the top, yes. But i thought the colors were beautiful and strong. The only costume i hated was that of the courtiers in the last act, who looked like dancing meringues. Ick. Period inappropriate and hideous. Also the overuse of white made them blend into the set too much.

The dancing was top notch throughout. As I mentioned earlier, I thought the fairies were fantastic. I enjoyed the variations, and really appreciated the coaching which emphasized the uniqueness of each fairy unlike in Martins' version where the fairies were too much the same. Fang as the fairy of joy delivered probably the best version of this variation I have ever seen. I'm surprised to have seen so little comment on the fairies actually, as I think their variations are one of the highlights of the entire ballet.

I saw Cornejo and xiomara reyes as bluebird and florine. He was superb as expected. I did not like her. I simply cannot warm to her--her coquettish grin drives me crazy and I thought she was unmusical. Her balances were lovely, but if you push them till you are totally behind the music you are missing the point!

The corps looked a bit underrehearsed in places, but it was the first night of a new ballet. I didn't find this too disturbing

As for the choreography and staging--

I must admit I have less familiarity with the ballet than some of you have, which could explain why I liked it more. I was very familiar with the old ABT version, having been a super in it back in the early 90s. But that was a while ago! And the only other version I've seen of late was NYCBs which did not impress me and was much more truncated (though Ashley Bouder was to die for!).

I really think the last act was a mistake. The time saved by cutting out the variations therein was minimal, and i would rather have seen the spindle maypole go in its stead. For me this was the one real serious serious fauxpas. And I think it should be rectified in future runs. It certainly would not be hard to reinsert them. Yes it makes it a bit longer, but they are a highlight of the ballet and their omission is a serious one.

the other significant problem was in the dream/vision sequence. I believe someone else said this. Why is it necessary to have both a dream and a vision. THe distinction is somewhat muddled, confused, and obfuscates rather than clarifies. Again, I think this would be an easy fix.

I didn't mind the carrying around of the prince. It was odd. yes. But i thought it was a rather neat and new way to get the concept across. I didn't LOVE it. but it made me think and was interesting.

As for the hated flying. I kind of liked it. :speechless-smiley-003: Though more so with the carabosse death scene than the final tableau of lilac above, which served no narrative purpose but the tableau.


One thing I've found somewhat confusing/interesting is the dichotomy in the comments before and after the ballet premiered.

Before everyone was worrying that they were making SB too deep, too psychological.

Now people seem to be saying that it is the deepest and most psychologically meaningful of ballets.

Is it? Is Aurora a deep emotionally intense role?

I don't think so.

In the prologues she's a doll

Act I--Rich princess at her 16th (or 20th) bday

Act II--a vision.

Act III--a bride to a man she doesnt know at all but apparently loves because he rescued her.


Link to comment
Hilary Ostlere weighs in with a review in the Financial Times:


Traditionalists will take issue with American Ballet Theatre's new production of this beloved classic, and with good cause. Much has been altered or abandoned for little reason, except the stated one by artistic director Kevin McKenzie of investing it with a heightened sense of colour and new energy, supplied by a choreographic committee including Gelsey Kirkland, McKenzie and Michael Chernov and unstated others for the Garland Dance and Hunt and Vision scenes.

IMO Hilary's mention of Veronica's opening night gala mishap, could have been omitted.

Clean slate; new day.

Link to comment

what i find worrying about some of what i am hearing (and what i see evidenced in the few photographs I have seen) is a feeling of looking at and hearing about a cartoon! Statements like this one from Hilary Ostlere's review:

little reason, except the stated one by artistic director Kevin McKenzie of investing it with a heightened sense of colour and new energy

don't help. i can't be specific as i haven't seen it. however many of the statements made in advance of its premiere filled me with great foreboding and still do. it would be interesting to see more photographs, as I won't be able to attend a performance.

Link to comment
I found a "Hippogriff" defined as:

A winged horse with the head and claws of an eagle. (The head, wings and front legs of a griffin, and the back legs of a horse.) An elusive creature that can fly long distances at high altitudes.

Did it look like that?

According to an interview I read (don't remember if it was NYTimes or Playbill) with the designer, yes it is indeed supposed to be a hippogriff--hence another BTer's reference to Harry Potter--and yes, as an exemplar of... (light over dark? good over evil?) it had some mythological/allegorical reference to the designer's overall theme progression, something supposedly inherent in the set design as well as boats.

Link to comment

Last night was the first time I saw a Sleeping Beauty and so I have no "historical" reference. I can only compare it to my rather limited experiences at the ABT and NYCB.

I also refer to MetOpera productions when I try to frame my comments on a performance with respect to the sets, costumes and music of a production. And finally to my own subjective sensibility about what a ballet experience should be. This makes my reviews for others rather useless.

SB was a enjoyable experience and had some very strong dancing. I virtually never fall for the plots in Opera or Ballet... to me they are so contrived, cartoonlike and loaded with stereotypes. ballet verite anyone? You really have to suspend all belief to read these people as real characters. Have you ever seen a Prince and one who does leaps and spins? ALL Ballet is MAKE BELIEVE.

Some of these ADs take the approach that they can create their own make believe and pass it off as classical or romantic or whatever type of ballet it is billed as. And they can.. and their vision is perfectly OK... but it might not and usually does not align with everyone's expectations.

I love to see ballet, to see these talented geniuses of motion and of the human form work together. It's hard for me to not like these performances. But some of them are exceptional and all aspects of the production reinforce the experiece.. the costumes, lighting, sets, acting, storyline, music whatever. Some elements don't make it for me.. some less so.

SB is a fairy tale... what the hell is a fairy tale? It looked like a fairy tale to me... and the sets and the costumes were fine. Perhaps they could have been better... they certainly could have been worse. I don't want ballet to look like a disney production when it is a fairy tale. I don't want Romeo and Juliet sets to look like the Flintstones either.

My own gold standard for production creativity for a classic work is the MetOpera Zauberflote. This is a completely new vision and I am sure Wolfie would love it could be come and see it. It is a fantasy... a kind of fairy tale... but it does not look silly or cartoonlike or from the flintstones or from set design 101. It is world class and that is what we expect on the NY State Theater and MetOpera stages... world class productions. God knows they have the talent to draw from... if they want it. It's not the dancers or the performers... it's the ADs, designers, who make or break it as world class and not just another "new production"

Sleeping Beauty is no Zauberflot... not even close.

The choreography was certainly competant and even exciting at times... but some performers are better actors and seem to be the part they play and others seem to be TRYING to be the part they are playing.

I thought Sarah Lane was great, but some who saw her do other performances said she was off last night. Perhaps.

If ballet is a living art form.. then we shouldn't be expecting 21st century Petipa production looking exactly like Petipa production of 100 years ago... that is unless they tell us it is to be thus. But most ADs want to add their own touch... don't they? And some of their visions are frankly awful... some passable but sadly few seem to find lasting greatness.

ABT's SB was fine but certainly could be improved. But isn't that true of most things these days?

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...