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David Nice
I’ll think of something later, November 2009

This is the only Sleeping Beauty I’ve seen to make the rare patches of action flame into life: the emergence of Carabosse’s entourage from under the skewed banqueting table, the thorny forest that covers the castle, the winter panorama against which the Lilac Fairy and the Prince travel to their destination.

There’s also more music here than we currently get in the painstaking but slightly frigid revival of the 1946 Messel-designed extravaganza. It’s conducted on the DVD with surprising panache by Barry Wordsworth and what violin solos remain are superlatively taken by dashing Vashko Vassilev…Anyway, the Act Three March is there in 1994, and this is the only time I’ve ever seen Tchaikovsky’s brilliantly scored, modernist 5/4 variation for the Sapphire Fairy danced (the rhythm does, admittedly, make Petipa’s classical tradition buckle). I’d still like to hear all one hundred bars of the ‘sleep’ entr’acte and, while the Wolf is there in Act Three as splendidly adorned as Puss in Boots and the White Cat, Cinderella, her Prince and Hop O’My Thumb are deprived of their piquant numbers. I guess you can never have everything in a staged Beauty.

This one, in any case, is executed at the highest, aristocratic level the imperial style demands. It’s a feast of exquisite dancing, from the fairy-tale variations of Deborah Bull, Leanne Benjamin and Errol Pickford among others equally good to the gorgeous picture-book Florimund of Zoltan Solymosi and the poetry incarnate of Viviana Durante’s Aurora. Cojocaru, in the latest production, may be a more realistic teenager, but not a better ballerina. This is the Beauty to buy as a Christmas present for children, whether dance-mad or not. And adults will be spellbound by the visual extravaganza, as our guests of all ages were when we watched the Perrault divertissement on Sunday afternoon.

I can’t tire of hearing those Act Three character-sketches in which Tchaikovsky’s happiest genius reaches its high watermark.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2009

Anthony Dowell’s 1994 production of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, for London’s Royal Ballet, embodied everything traditionalists will adore, the spectacular sets, magnificent costumes and stylized movements bringing a visual feast. He had used as his starting point the familiar Marius Petipa choreography to which had been added the Royal Ballet’s own adornments gathered together over many performing years. It has created a very graphic enactment of the famous children’s story that thrives on the blaze of colour that was the key ingredient to this video made for screening on UK television fifteen years ago. It was a first class example of film production, mainly keeping well back to give a view of the complete stage action, yet at key moments going in close to view the finer points of the principal dancers. It was a very strong cast, and ballet lovers will relish a view of the young future star, Deborah Bull, dancing the small parts of Coulante in the Prologue and Silver in the last act. In the part of Princess Aurora we have the diminutive Viviana Durante, just about tall enough to accompany the list of suitors in the First Act, and of gossamer lightness in her solos, the first act’s Rose Adagio as rock-steady as you will find. Zoltan Solymosi makes a tall, good-looking and elegant Prince, his athletic legs creating formidable leaps that left us amazed when seen from the stalls. Benezir Hussein’s Lilac Fairy is graceful, restrained and an impeccable foil to Anthony Dowell’s maliciously evil Carabosse. Of course it is a ballet that depends on so many subsidiary roles who between them expand the short story to a full-length ballet, and you will delight in the third act cat duet from Peter Abegglen and Larissa Bamber. The corps de ballet is outstanding in its precision and those who follow the art of great ballet conductors will be thrilled by Barry Wordsworth who delivers the most impeccable tempos even when his principals wanted them changing from the norm. He obtained orchestral playing of the highest order and the sound is as good as it gets on DVD.

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