Ballet Review: 'The Sleeping Beauty'
The Sleeping Beauty, like
The new American Ballet Theatre version that the Dear Friend & Conscience and I saw at the Met last night apparently is the first that is a collaboration between a company's artistic director and a former ballerina who has danced the title role of Princess Aurora.
They would be Kevin McKenzie and Gelsey Kirkland, with a big assist from
's husband, Michael Chernov, in the capacity of dramaturge (playright). Kirkland
The dynamic trio’s production is more or less true to the original story:
The evil fairy Caraboose, upset that she has been omitted from the A-List for the christening of Princess Aurora, pricks the princess's finger with a spindle, condemning her to death instead of a life of unimaginable perfection that would inevitably lead to marriage to a perfect prince. The Lilac Fairy intervenes, promising King Florestan and his queen that Princess
The most ostensible departures in the new The Sleeping Beauty are the extended interplay between the supernatural world of The Lilac Fairy and Caraboose, and Princes Aurora’s human world. There are three acts but only one intermission, and Princess Aurora’s century-long snooze is now 500 years, meaning that her finger is pricked in the Middle Ages and she is awakened by Prince Désiré in the 18th century.I am a latecomer to the wonderful world of classical ballet, and only then because of the kindnesses of the DF&C, a longtime balletomaine and a pretty fair dancer herself who has treated me to superlative performances by the ABT, New York City Ballet, Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet and Kirov Ballet -- the very best of the best -- in recent years.
Did I mention the dancing?
Diana Vishneva as Princess Aurora was over-the-top stunning in the sheer beauty and athleticism of her dancing; her Rose Adagio brought the house down.
Stella Abrera was magnificent as The Lilac Fairy. Kudos also to David Hallberg as Prince Désiré and Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes as The Bluebird and Princess Florine. Martine Van Hamel was a delightfully evil Fairy Caraboose, a role danced at the Saturday night opening and yesterday’s afternoon matinee by Gelsey Kirkland herself, who returned to the stage after more than 20 years.
(Susan Jaffe played The Queen, and while she did not dance per se, the mere presence on stage of this ABT veteran and one of the leading ballerinas of our time further elevated the production.)
The elaborate sets were gorgeous and Tchaikovsky's score was played magnificently by the ABT orchestra, conducted by Ormsby Wilkins, but at least one critic grouched that it had not been done justice.
Wrote Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times:
"Mr. McKenzie, Ms. Kirkland and Mr. Chernov are concerned not with revealing Tchaikovsky's music but merely using it to their own dramatic ends. Yet that could be O.K. if they were choreographing the ballet from scratch as well as retelling it. This production doesn't make the story boring, as some have done; in a Disneyesque way, this story has some tension and certainly surprise. Its problem is that these directors have saddled themselves with extensive chapters of old choreography."I dunno. There were some slow spots in the pacing, especially in Act II as Prince Désiré set out on his journey to awaken Princess Aurora, but that mattered not.
Because from the moment the magnificent crystal chandeliers ascended into the ceiling of the Met and the curtain came up, we were transfixed.
No reviewer of this classical tale worth their salt, especially a neophyte like moi, would put pen to paper before consulting someone who really knows what they’re talking about.
In this instance, that's Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a psychoanalyst, post-trauma specialist and folklorist of international renown with whom I blog at The Moderate Voice.
Dr. E offered this analysis before the curtain went up:
"Though various politicos have tried to hijack the idea that the Prince kisses Sleeping Beauty awake at the end, (ie., We don't need no stinkin' princes to awaken us!) the kiss is really like a beautiful grace note at the end of a symphony.
“In the oldest written versions we know, Beauty awakens because the 100-year curse is up, not because she is kissed. The time of sleeping and dreaming has expired for everyone in the kingdom; now comes the time to put all that one had been dreaming for into true life.
"There is the uninvited 13th fairy. In symbology, 13 is the beginning of a new cycle, 12 months, 12 hours of day, 12 hours of night . . . to leave out the 13th that can wish the child into ever new life is only granting the child lovely attributes, but without a future to use them in.
"If a woman would be wild and wise, she will ever have to meet the old woman spinner at the top of the stair, draw blood, fall into a fallow time, and then come back to life. There is no such thing as remaining innocent forever."
Photograph by Gene Schiavone