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New York City Ballet - The Sleeping Beauty
Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Conductor, Andrea Quinn
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Manager, Press Relations, Siobhan Burns
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
(See Other NYC Ballet Reviews)
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 18, 2004
The Sleeping Beauty (1991): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Libretto by Marius Petipa and A. Vsevolozhsky, after stories by Charles Perrault and others, Choreography by Peter Martins (after Marius Petipa) (Garland Dance by George Balanchine), Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes designed by Patricia Zipprodt, Costumes executed by Barbara Matera, Make-up, Hair, and Wigs designed by Michael Avedon, Lighting by Mark Stanley.
Performed by: Jenifer Ringer as Princess Aurora; Philip Neal as Prince Désiré; Robert Lyon as King Florestan; Dena Abergel as The Queen; Maria Kowroski as The Lilac Fairy; Andre Kramarevsky as Catalabutte; Merrill Ashley as The Fairy Carabosse; Dana Hanson as The Fairy of Tenderness; Carrie Lee Riggins as the Fairy of Vivacity; Rachel Rutherford as The Fairy of Generosity; Lindy Mandradjieff as The Fairy of Eloquence; Ellen Bar as The Fairy of Courage; Arch Higgins, Stephen Hanna, Jonathan Stafford, and Henry Seth as The Suitors; Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson) as The Countess; Christopher Boehmer as His Attendant; Charles Askegard, Ashley Bouder, Pascale van Kipnis, and Amanda Edge as The Jewels; Jessica Flynn and Seth Orza as The White Cat and Puss in Boots; Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz as Princess Florine and The Bluebird; Anjelica Fellini and Henry Seth as Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf; Antonio Carmena, Adam Hendrickson, and Daniel Ulbricht as The Court Jesters; and students from School of American Ballet.
Sleeping Beauty was premiered at Maryinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, January 15, 1890. George Balanchine made his ballet debut in Sleeping Beauty, as a dancer in the Garland Waltz and as a cupid. For NYC Ballet's 1981 Tschaikovsky Festival, George Balanchine choreographed the Garland Dance. Peter Martins included this Garland Dance in his 1991 staging. This production includes more than 100 dancers, including students from School of American Ballet, and 250 costumes. David Mitchell's scenes create a mystical world and fairy tales. Patricia Zipprodt's costumes follow paintings of the courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV. (NYCB Notes).
Tonight at NYC Ballet was an experience akin to a Fairy Tale, a sumptuous set and a Corps of exquisite dancers, with a traditional story unfolding amidst screened images of a castle on high that shift and change with the time of day (incredible constellations appear and evolve at night) and seasons (autumn is depicted with blazing golds and oranges) and with the inevitable brambles that enclose the sleeping Kingdom. In fact, this was a real Fairy tale, as there was actually an assortment of fairies: The Fairy Carabosse, who places a wicked death spell on an innocent Princess Aurora, who is fated to die at sixteen from a finger prick on a spindle, because Carabosse was not invited to Aurora's baby Christening; The Lilac Fairy, who undoes this spell and changes it to one of sleep, with the entire Kingdom sleeping 100 years, until Aurora is awakened by the kiss of a Prince who is also willing to immediately love and marry her; and The Fairies of Tenderness, Vivacity, Generosity, Eloquence, and Courage, all of whom dance around the Kingdom at various intervals to offer spirited feelings and imagery of pastels.
Of course, there's a King and Queen, who dance little but prance extensively, and loosely protect their daughter from evil intruders, such as Carabosse in disguise. Unfortunately, there's also Catalabutte, in a long brown wig, who bumbles interminably and is the cause of the original invitation oversight, as well as the cause of the unfortunate entrance of Carabosse at the sixteenth birthday event. This evil Fairy hides the "fatal" spindle in a bouquet of flowers (reminds me of the snake, hidden in the Nikiya's basket in La Bayadère.) Prince Désiré is supposed to be the most soulful and passionate of this growing cast, one who cuts through serious brambles and awakens a Princess and her Kingdom, with passion and possession. I will speak more to that ballet character later.
In addition to the scenes of The Christening and The Spell, with Mitchell's sensational sets, Zipprodt and Matera's elegant tapestry and flowing and frothy costumes, and Avedon's wigs and hair, we were treated to a woodland Vision, in which The Lilac Fairy shows princess Aurora to Prince Désiré, and they actually have a dream ballet, within a ballet, to inspire him onwards to the brambles and the love of his life, who needs a kiss to awaken. The Awakening scene is rapid, one kiss and 100 years disappear. Then, The Wedding scene, with dances by Jewels, a White Cat and Puss in Boots, Princess Florine and The Bluebird, Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, The Court Jesters, and The Courtiers of The Kingdom. The dancing tonight, from the Corps de Ballet and from students from School of American Ballet, such as in The Garland Dance (with wreaths of spring flowers), was flawless and ever so lovely.
Jenifer Ringer, as Princess Aurora, is virtuosic and vivacious. She is everything one would desire in a star-crossed character, and her sixteenth birthday dance, upon being struck by the evil spell, was touching and dramatic. Ms. Ringer exuded innocence, vulnerability, and sensitivity. Her dancing was superb, and the signature dance with her four Suitors, during which she must breathlessly let go, one leg en pointe, in a rotation of Suitors, was poised and practiced. Ms. Ringer is dancing onstage during four of five scenes, and she did not seem fatigued or withered. Aurora is a grueling ballet role, for the sturdiest of Principal dancers, and Ms. Ringer deserves kudos all around.
Philip Neal, as Prince Désiré, on the other hand, was ill cast. He would have been better cast as The Gold Jewel, as Charles Askegard exuded passion and presence, and Mr. Neal was weak in charisma. However, Mr. Neal partnered Ms. Ringer adequately, with more self-assurance than on other nights, and self-consciously beamed at his own skills, during audience approval. It would be interesting to see Robert Tewsley, Damian Woetzel, or Sébastien Marcovici in the role of Aurora's rescuer, Prince Désiré, and perhaps that duet will happen on another night. Andre Kramarevsky as the bumbling Catalabutte was adorable and theatrical, always in spirit, always entertaining. Maria Kowroski, as The Lilac Fairy, performed with compelling characterization and ethereal beauty. But, Merrill Ashley, as the vicious, vindictive Fairy Carabosse, all in black lace and strings, nearly stole the show, with her four mosquito-like black creatures crawling around her angular contortions and her striking, black carriage.
Notable, among the remaining Fairies, was Rachel Rutherford, who is fast becoming one of the most skillful and sensual dancers in the Company. As The Fairy of Generosity, Rachel was almost existential in presence and movement. As The Suitors, Mr. Hanna, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Stafford, and Mr. Seth were skillful and kept Ms. Ringer en pointe with definition and determination. Saskia Beskow, as The Countess in The Vision, was courtly and confident. Among the dancing Jewels at The Wedding, Charles Askegard, as Gold, and Ashley Bouder, as Diamond, were most outstanding, and Ms. Bouder is also developing a reputation this Season, for aerial virtuosity and elegant, yet energetic form.
Jessica Flynn and Seth Orza as The White Cat and Puss in Boots were sexually ignited, and this saucy scene was rare, among the frothy Fairies, crawling creatures, and biting brambles. A tour de force performance was given by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz, as Princess Florine and The Bluebird. Their duet is another signature piece in The Sleeping Beauty, and it was good to see Mr. De Luz for the first time in this Company (he emigrated from ABT last Season). Both Ms. Fairchild and Mr. De Luz are electrically charged, bravura dancers. Not only did they not disappoint, but they surpassed my wildest imagination in this all-too-brief duet. Mr. De Luz dances mid-air, with no floor in site, and their sprightly, petite personas, in deep tones of blue, feathers on high, were a joy to behold. No charisma was lost here.
I was hoping that this one time Red Riding Hood would elude The Wolf, but with no luck. Anjelica Fellini was just too tiny and cute to believe, and her stage confidence was exceptional for such a small child. Henry Seth scooped her offstage, after a race through tiny, human trees, as The Court Jesters entered. Mr. Carmena, Mr. Hendrickson, and Mr. Ulbricht were powerful and potent, as they leaped in muscle-bound momentum, over, through, and under each other, in an ever too short passage of hormonal energy.
Andrea Quinn conducted this full-length ballet with aplomb, and her Orchestra was sensational. Kudos to Peter Martins and to the famed Marius Petipa for a broad range of bravura choreography. And, kudos to Tschaikovsky for this sumptuous, fairy tale score.
NYCB - The Sleeping Beauty - Choreography by Peter Martins after Petipa and George Balanchine - Dancers: Amanda Edge, Charles Askegard, Ashley Bouder, Pascale Van Kipnis
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik
NYCB - The Sleeping Beauty - Choreography by Peter Martins after Petipa and George Balanchine - Dancers: Jenifer Ringer as Princess Aurora and Philip Neal as Prince Désiré
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik