American Ballet Theatre
The Sleeping Beauty 2015
Ballet in Prologue and Three Acts
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 11, 2015
(Read More ABT Reviews)
(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on this Season’s Ballet Music.)
Conductor: David LaMarche
The Sleeping Beauty (2015): Choreography by Marius Petipa, Staging and additional choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, assisted by Tatiana Ratmansky, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Scenery and Costumes by Richard Hudson, Inspired by Léon Bakst, Lighting by James F. Ingalls.
Everyone knows this renowned fairy tale ballet, that begins with Catalabutte’s accidentally leaving the evil Fairy Carabosse off the guest list for Princess Aurora’s Christening. When Carabosse arrives in anger, she’s accompanied by dancing rats, in this production, and places a curse on Aurora that she’ll die on her sixteenth birthday, by pricking her finger on a spindle. The Lilac Fairy improves Aurora’s fate to a 100 year nap, in which the entire Kingdom will sleep as well, so her parents can join in her century-late wedding, with famous storybook characters and others invited. Toward the end of that century nap, the lonely and restless Prince Désiré sees and dances with a vision of Aurora, and the Lilac Fairy miraculously appears to bring him to meet and kiss Aurora, waking her up to marry him, which she does, with all the Fairies in attendance as well.
Cast: Performed by Sarah Lane as Princess Aurora, Herman Cornejo as Prince Désiré, Devon Teuscher as The Lilac Fairy, Nancy Raffa as Carabosse, the evil fairy, Victor Barbee as King Florestan XIV, Kate Lydon as His Queen, Alexei Agoudine as Catalabutte, Fairies: Stephanie Williams as Wheat flower, Lauren Post as Breadcrumb, Cassandra Trenary as Canary, and Christine Shevchenko as Temperament, Gray Davis, Thomas Forster, Joo Won Ahn, Zhiyao Zhang, Jonathan Klein, and Blaine Hoven as The Fairy Cavaliers, Calvin Royal as the Spanish Prince, Grant DeLong as the English Prince, Craig Salstein as the Italian Prince, Duncan Lyle as the Indian Prince, Clinton Luckett as Galifron, Prince Désiré’s Tutor, Luciana Paris as The Countess, Precious Stones: Skylar Brandt as Diamond Fairy, Nicole Graniero as Gold Fairy, Luciana Paris as Silver Fairy, Gemma Bond as Sapphire Fairy, Isadora Loyola and Sean Stewart as The White Cat and Puss-in-Boots, Adrienne Schulte and Patrick Ogle as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, Katherine Williams and Thomas Forster as Cinderella and Prince Fortune, Misty Copeland and Gabe Stone Shayer as Princess Florine and The Bluebird, Children of the JKO School at ABT, and the Company as Lilac Fairy Attendants, Rats, Maids of Honor, Garland Waltz, Garland Waltz Children, Violin Pages, Baronesses, Duchesses, Dukes, Marchionesses, Marquises, Farandola, Nymphs, Hop-o’-my-Thumb and His Brothers, Ogre and Ogress, Mazurka, Bluebeard and Ariana, Porcelain Princesses, Mandarin, Scheherazade, Shah and his brother, Courtiers, Pages, Knitting Ladies, Guards, Nurses, and Wedding Guests.
From the expansive cast list above, one can gather how weighty this new production of The Sleeping Beauty actually is. Alexei Ratmansky, Ballet Theatre’s Artist in Residence, has put together, with wintery wigs and costumes, a watered down “Rose Adagio”, an overly layered series of Fairy Cavaliers, Fairy Attendants, Wedding Fairies, and…just look above, a totally undramatic, emotionally detached, encyclopedically formulated, and non-dance-worthy ballet. At the end of two intermissions, a long prologue, and three longer acts, I was on the verge of tears. I painfully missed the McKenzie/Kirkland/Chernov, 2007 production of The Sleeping Beauty, with its melodramatic and fluid “Rose Adagio” solo for Aurora, on her sixteenth birthday, and the perfumy Vision Scene, with first sight of Désiré, galloping from rear, stage right, like a thoroughbred, toward his hunting party. I missed the simplicity of the Prince’s first pas de deux with Aurora’s vision, the fine, Wedding Scene fish dives, the exalted rapture, and the bright, storybook set, upon which Désiré visibly kisses Aurora in The Awakening. Yes, all this and more was either missing or deconstructed. At the end of the evening, I wanted to time travel backwards to the overture of the 2013 performance of the former production, about which I raved.
To exemplify, and I chose to see but one cast of this new production, Sarah Lane, as Aurora, had either imposed some limitations on the choreography, or those limitations were already in place. The remaining issues were ingrained into the performance. The high point of any Sleeping Beauty ballet, including across the Plaza, is Princess Aurora’s introduction at her sixteenth birthday party, called the “Rose Adagio”, during which she dances, mostly en pointe, un-interrupted, with four Princes. The mesmerizing score is repeated and echoes throughout, until she raises both arms freely above her head, one leg en pointe, the other en air. At one point, she dances with long-stemmed roses, handing each to a Prince, without letting go of his hand, as she remains en pointe. This challenging solo is much like Swan Lake’s Act III Black Swan Pas de Deux, or Romeo and Juliet’s end of Act I, Balcony Scene. Only, in this case, it’s an endurance test for a solo ballerina, who has mastered balance, poise, gesture, stage presence, timing, etc. Tonight, to my shock, the choreography was changed, so that Aurora literally went off-pointe, during the Adagio, walked over to a row of “Violin Pages” (new), then completed, in fragmented form, her Adagio, when suspense was already dissipated. Moreover, in the Act III Wedding Scene, when Aurora and Désiré thrill the audience with breathtaking fish dives (Aurora runs, jumps, and dives into the Prince’s arms, before photo finish images), instead, tonight, Aurora (Ms. Lane) chose to spin in place, with Mr. Cornejo’s help, then be lifted and turned into the dive…ballet light.
To add to the deep disappointment, in Act II’s The Hunt, Mr. Cornejo walked, slowly, unsmiling, with a long, heavy wig, rear, stage right, instead of the hard-charging gallop. Frankly, Mr. Cornejo, for the very first time in well over a decade, looked depressed. He was a virtuoso in search of a ballet. The choreography, itself, which was designed, it was said, close to the original 1890, Petipa version, was stiff, leaden, staccato. Everything seemed turned inside out. Devon Teuscher, the Lilac Fairy, was eloquent and exhilarating, a refreshing sight. But, Richard Hudson’s costumes and scenery lacked cohesion. There was no glittering vision, as the stage was so chock full of extraneous characters and scenic details. It was as if this were staged in a castle’s attic, from trunks, with dusty wigs and heavy fur-trimmed costumes, in the heat of almost summer! Nancy Raffa made the most of Carabosse, the Fairy who’s not invited to Aurora’s Prologue Christening. She gets even with the threat of the spindle (see synthesized plot above). Ms. Raffa was devilish and delightful. Catalabutte, who works for the Court, and drew up the list of Christening invitees, without Carabosse on the list, was a humorous Alexei Agoudine. King Flourestan and His Queen were finely performed, in the heaviness of Russian-winter cloth, by Victor Barbee and Kate Lydon. Mr. Barbee is a master of regal, balletic maturity, always sophisticated and nuanced. The five Fairies at The Christening were lovely, although this segment was quite lengthy. Christine Shevchenko was exquisite as Temperament.
In the Rose Adagio scene, Craig Salstein was the only Soloist Prince, with three Corps Princes. Again, the hats and scarves and costumes were so leaden that they moved slowly. Ms. Lane could have used better supporting partners, but, then again, this was a Rose Adagio in fragments. In the lackluster Vision scene, with an over-abundance of Corps (coming and going all evening in numerous, small roles), Clinton Luckett caught my eye, as usual, a fine Tutor to the Prince, and Luciana Paris was a credible, rejected Countess, tossed off by the Prince, so he could dream of his Vision. At the Wedding, four fairies (diamond, gold, silver, sapphire) danced before the storybook characters, another long add-on. All four Corps ballerinas were exemplary, especially Skylar Brandt, as the sparkling Diamond Fairy. Isadora Loyola and Sean Stewart, as The White Cat and Puss-in-Boots, made the best of what is usually a more showcased duo dance. Misty Copeland and Gabe Stone Shayer were a rambunctious Princess Florine and The Bluebird, Adrienne Schulte and Patrick Ogle added more camp as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, and Courtney Lavine and Thomas Forster were regal as Cinderella and Prince Fortune. But, then, Mr. Ratmansky has also added an ensemble of seven as Hop-o’-my-Thumb and His Brothers, plus a duo, called Ogre and Ogress. At this point, it resembled a college fraternity bacchanalia, or Masterpiece Theatre. And, lo and behold, then…, Mazurkas (huge ensemble), Bluebeard and Ariana, Porcelain Princesses, Mandarin, Scheherazade, and Shah and his brother. Incredibly, an even more complete cast list is above.
Kudos to Conductor, David LaMarche, and Ballet Theatre Orchestra.
Please, Mr. McKenzie, bring your own production (from 1987 or 2007) of The Sleeping Beauty back to Spring Season, even Fall Season, anytime, anywhere.
Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo
in "The Sleeping Beauty"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor