The Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Bristol Hippodrome

IF there was such a term as “Grand Ballet”, you could use it to label The Sleeping Beauty. Every thing about it is on a grand scale – Tchaikovsky’s score, the second longest he composed for any genre, Marius Petipa’s original choreography, based in the Brothers Grimm’s interpretation of Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty, even the original running time, which with intermissions ran for nearly four hours.
For Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sir Peter Wright, in common with virtually all modern productions,  has cut that time down to two hours 40 minutes, but that is  the only sacrifice he has made to accommodate modern theatrical tastes. This is a lavish production worthy of one of the most popular and best-loved ballets in the repertoire, and arguably the finest score composed for any ballet.
Beautifully costumed , elegantly staged and lit, there was not doubting from the first glimpse of the set and cast that we are in amongst courtiers in a royal palace. I dread to think how much of BRB’S budget was  spent on the staging of this production, visually superb, with dancers wearing the elaborate rich costumes as if they were their everyday wear, the effect was stunning and worth every penny.
All of this would of course go for naught had the performances and musical backing failed to live up to their surroundings. From the corps de ballet through the many individual characters who populate the story, the villainous Fairy Carabosse (Daria Stanciulescu), and her evil attendants, the cool poise of Ellis Small’s Lilac Fairy, and her finely-marshalled attendants, a whole string of fairytale characters, (but why did Red Riding Hood have white hair?) and as elegant a group of courtiers as you are liable to find anywhere all created an ideal picture frame for Miki Mizutani and Lachlan Monaghan to draw their portraits of Princess Aurora, Beauty, and Prince  Florimund.
Miki moved from gushing schoolgirl to teenage tease, dancing the Rose Adagio with her four unfortunate prospective husbands  with superb control, to lovely loving bride, with an ease and style that said that she was always in comfortable and enjoying the challenge. The build up with Lachlan to their show piece solos and pas de deux, in keeping with the characters they had evolved was not spectacular, but provided a perfect centre piece for the beautifully stage finale.
Recently, listening to a pint sized orchestra trying to bring out the full flavour of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score, was a sad experience, but listening to the full sized orchestra Koen Kessels has assembled in his farewell season with the Birmingham Royal Ballet Sinfonia was a pure joy. The fact that they have, and did, keep strict tempo for the dancers did not prevent them bringing out the nuance and flavour in the Grand Waltz, fun dances and soaring dramatic moments within the music.
There were in the audience many young people and  school parties and it would be hard to think of a better introduction for them to the world of classical ballet.
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