"The Sleeping Beauty"
English National Ballet
9 January 2013
by Judith Cruikshank
copyright 2013 by Judith Cruikshank
If Tamara Rojo was feeling more than usually nervous before her performance on Wednesday evening it would have been understandable. English National Ballet was opening a run of that most challenging of ballets, "The Sleeping Beauty" as part of its London season, and Rojo, who took over the direction of the company from Wayne Eagling at the beginning of the season, was also dancing Aurora. Enough to test anyone’s composure you might think.
Georgiadis’s original sets proved to be in poor condition and impractical for touring, so Peter Farmer designed new decors. There’s rather too much turquoise for my taste, but they are discreet, leave plenty of space for the action and he has devised a really effective solution for the Lilac Fairy’s magical effects in Acts I and II.
I’m not sure why MacMillan thought it necessary to embellish some of Petipa’s solos for the Fairies in the Prologue, but they were all danced with admirable skill and style. Especially noteworthy were Laurretta Summerscales and tiny Nancy Osbaldston and Shiori Kase as the Songbird Fairy. Kase also appeared as Princess Florine, partnered by Yonah Acosta. Another lovely performance but she might with advantage resist the temptation to hold her balances for so long in the variation.
MacMillan chose to have Carabosse played by a man and James Streeter, looking rather like Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth, gave a striking portrayal without going over the top. Playing opposite him was Daria Klimentova; a serene, smiling and confident Lilac Fairy who deserves special commendation for the beautiful way she shaped her variation in the Prologue.
Rojo herself is unquestionably a wonderful dancer, but I suspect Aurora is not a role which especially appeals to her. There was to be sure some truly beautiful and expansive dancing, especially in the vision scene. And although there were lovely moments in Act I she seems to view the Rose Adagio, in particular, as an opportunity to display aspects of her formidable technique, cramming in extra pirouettes to the detriment of the music and holding balances for so long that one of her partners was completely ignored.
Nor was there much rapport with her Prince, Vadim Muntagirov, despite his ardent expressions of adoration for his Aurora. Tall, with elegant long legs and an impressive jump, Montagirov is visibly improving from an already high level. He would be a considerable asset to any company and Rojo is fortunate in that at the moment he appears to be happy to make his career in the UK, albeit with a number of guest appearances overseas.
ENB is showing a number of casts in "Sleeping Beauty" at the Coliseum before taking the production on the road. This first part of the season was already fixed when Rojo assumed the directorship but in April the company presents her first mixed bill in London under the somewhat sensational title "Ecstasy and Death": Jiri Kilian’s "Petite Mort", "Le Jeune Homme et la Mort" and that old ENB standby "Etudes". It will be interesting to see how this is received by the company’s audiences, many of whom are staunchly traditional. Much could hang on this.
English National Ballet in "The Sleeping Beauty"
Las photograph is of Tamara Rojo and Vadim Muntagirov as Aurora and her Prince.