The Sleeping Beauty has a very special place in The Royal Ballet’s history: it was the work with which the company reopened the Royal Opera House in 1946 after the end of World War II.
Everything coalesces to make this a transporting ballet. There is the fairy tale of the beautiful Princess Aurora, who finds love with the handsome Prince Florimund after sleeping for 100 years. There are Oliver Messel's sumptuous, painterly original designs, later augmented by Peter Farmer. And the work has a plethora of roles for soloists and corps de ballet, including fairies galore and some quite tasty character parts.
Petipa’s original choreography, added to over the years by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon, is varied, eloquent and very demanding.
At the centre of it all is Aurora, and every Royal Ballet ballerina taking on the role knows she follows in the daunting footsteps of Margot Fonteyn, the Royal’s first Sleeping Beauty.
Yasmine Naghdi was this season’s first Aurora and clearly relished the challenge. There were fleeting glimpses of Margot herself as Naghdi sailed assuredly through her choreography. She was first the radiant, playful 16-year-old flirting with her four royal suitors and making short work of the famous Rose Adagio, with its slow turns and repeated balances.
We see her next as the vision in the forest with which her protector, the Lilac Fairy, leads Prince Florimund to fall in love and break her curse. Here Naghdi is ethereal, tempting but always tantalisingly out of reach.
Finally we see her at her wedding celebrations: no longer a girl, rather a woman in love, her bearing regal, and her dancing assertive in the final grand pas.
Throughout she tempers steely technique with the softest of arms. Her phrasing confers extra meaning to the choreography, and she has a way of extending movement by just barely slowing down arm extensions.
Her Florimund was Matthew Ball, a princely Prince, very handsome, and a solid, attentive partner, but not hugely exciting.
Of the very many variations that make this ballet such an endless source of excitement, Princess Florine and The Bluebird in Act III, danced by principals Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé, stood out. Hayward’s fluttering hands and light, fleet footwork were well matched by Sambé’s explosive, soaring jumps and beautifully defined batterie. Theirs was deservedly one of the most enthusiastic ovations of the night.
First soloist Fumi Kaneko, surely on her way to a promotion, was a strong Lilac Fairy, dispensing goodness with fluent dancing and clear mime.
There was some good work, too, in the character roles, most prominently the wicked fairy Carabosse, performed by Kristen McNally as a glamorous figure of evil, with her retinue of six monstrous rats.
After some small initial jitters, the corps, augmented by students from the Royal Ballet School, were in superb form; and the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, conducted by Simon Hewett, did justice to Tchaikovsky’s score.
The Sleeping Beauty is in rep at the ROH until 16 January 2020
Live Cinema Relay Thursday 16 January
|What||The Royal Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty review|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
07 Nov 19 – 16 Jan 20, 19:30 9, 7 & 14 Dec at 19:00; mats 9 , 14 Dec & 11 Jan 13:30; 5 Dec 14:30 Dur.: 3 hours inc two intervals
|Website||Click here to book|