The Sleeping Beauty, The Royal Ballet © ROH 2023. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
It’s a world of sumptuous palaces, richly costumed royals, fairies good and evil, with flowing, intricate choreography, Petipa's original added to over the years by Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon. At its centre is a story of sublime love that for a few all-too-brief hours makes us believe anything is possible.
Especially when the lovers, Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund are danced by The Royal Ballet principals sans pareil Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov.
Following a prologue that tells the story of Aurora’s cursing at her christening party by the evil fairy Carabosse, we first meet the Princess at her 16th birthday party in Act I.
Marianela Nuñez as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, The Royal Ballet © ROH 2023. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
Nuñez’s dancing casts a magical spell. It’s not just that she is beautiful, her technique so effortless, her arms so soft and expressive, her back so pliable, her balances held like sighs, her jump powerful yet soft... it’s also that she brings the pure joy of dancing to her performance.
The epitome of a lively 16-year-old, she flirts with her audience as much as with her four suitors, her Rose Adagio a wonder of velvety control.
Yet in the vision scene of Act II, conjured by the Lilac Fairy to entice Prince Florimund to Aurora’s cursed castle, Nuñez is distant and ethereal, as light and unreal as a dream.
And finally in Act III, her wedding party, she is very much the regal princess, her every gesture imbued with the dignified happiness of a royal bride in love.
Vadim Muntagirov is undoubtedly the most noble of The Royal Ballet’s roster of danseurs nobles, and his Prince Florimund was simply faultless.
Vadim Muntagirov as Prince Florimund in The Sleeping Beauty, The Royal Ballet © ROH 2023. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
His line is achingly perfect; his soaring ballon ends in silent landings, his mime speaks to the audience as clearly as words.
And he, too, communicated the joy of dancing, particularly in the wedding grand pas de deux with Marianela Nuñez, their potent chemistry so transcendental it brought tears of emotion to my eyes.
With Messel’s original designs augmented by Peter Farmer, the current staging by former Royal Ballet director Monica Mason and Christopher Newton looks fresh and vital, and there’s a lot of excellent dancing from corps and soloists alike, particularly Fumi Kaneko as the Lilac Fairy.
Fumi Kaneko as The Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, The Royal Ballet. © ROH 2023. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
Over a long run, The Royal Ballet offers a variety of casts, with many of its principals giving their own interpretations of Aurora and Florimund.
A final word to the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under Koen Kessels’s baton, whose cogent playing brought Tchaikovsky luscious score to life once again.
|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)|
16 Jan 23 – 04 Mar 23, 19:30 Sats at 13:00 & 19:00 Dur.: 3 hours inc two intervals
|Website||Click here to book|