Review by Carolyn Watts
Theatre and ballet combine in Sydney’s State Theatre this month to deliver an old fairy tale with a twist.
The Russian National Ballet Theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty tells the traditional story of Princess Aurora who sleeps spellbound for a hundred years, and the production remains true to Vsevolozhsky’s 1888 original, which includes a miscellany of other fairytale characters, from Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebird, to The White Cat, in the final scene of the wedding party.
Staged within the fabulous fusion of Art Deco, Italian and Gothic design that is the refurbished State Theatre; this merging of traditional ballet and theatre seems at home here.
Plush red curtains and carpets, rich ornamentation of the theatre’s cathedral-like ceilings, along with busts of significant composers, all whet the audience’ appetite for a spectacular evening. Before the curtain rises, small would-be-ballerinas, awake beyond their usual bedtime, stare in awe and tiptoe to their seats where they wait to be transported to this legendary land of the hundred years’ sleep.
Excitement is palpable in expectation of enchanted forests, good and bad fairies, and wicked spells, all drawn from the deep roots of European fairytales.
The curtain rises on a demure party of guests at the christening of baby Aurora, their subdued costumes contrasting with the elegant chiffon drapes surrounding her cradle. That contrast continues as the Lilac and other good fairies each dance a sparkling solo while delivering her ‘gift’ to the Princess.
While the Lilac Fairy (Elizaveta Lobacheva) and the adult Princess Aurora (Lutcko Marta) are exquisite dancers, their pirouettes and arabesques leaving us breathless with admiration, it is the crooked Karabos (the wicked fairy who casts the sleeping spell) who stands out from a theatrical perspective. Her bent frame, her evil gaze and even dramatic gestures that seem to dare the audience to step out of line, give us a vigorous antagonist to contend with. When the Princess is fully grown she accept a bunch of flowers, in which a needle is hidden, from an old crone (Karabos). And so the spell is cast and the Kingdom falls asleep.
After a twenty-minute interval it is Prince Desire’s moment to shine. Left alone in the woods by his entourage, the Prince discovers first the Lilac Fairy and lastly Princess Aurora, whom he awakens with a kiss. In turn, the Kingdom wakes up and soon prepares for a wedding.
Prince Desire’s solo and pas de deux with Lilac and Aurora are examples of the loquacious capabilities of this beloved ballet; so much said so eloquently, without a word.
And the twist? The delightful surprise of the White Cat in the final wedding scene; look out for it.
Photo credits: State Theatre