Metropolitan Opera House, New York, NY: July 6(m), 2013.
American Ballet Theatre’s current production of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is choreographed by Kevin McKenzie, Gelsey Kirkland and Michael Chernov after Marius Petipa. It is not as strong as the Kenneth MacMillan ‘Sleeping Beauty’ which ABT danced previously. It is, however, much better than ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ which premiered in 2007. The choreography is the same, but that 2007 ‘Beauty’ had atrocious costumes and scenery, including a curtain which looked more like a modern shower curtain than anything found in a fairytale palace.
The shower curtain is gone and ABT’s 2013 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ has gorgeous costumes and scenery. My main complaint is that so much of Act III (“The Wedding Celebration”) has been deleted. Puss in Boots and the White Cat, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf and Cinderella and the Prince only appear at the beginning and end of Act III and they don’t get to dance their pas de deux. I wish McKenzie and company had instead decided to get rid of the scene at the beginning of Act I (“The Spell”). It involves the King wanting to execute four ladies as well as the King’s chief minister and his assistant for possessing spindles. This scene is not needed dramatically and it really seems to go on forever. I hope ABT gets rid of this scene and brings back the pas de deux for the fairytale characters in Act III.
‘The Sleeping Beauty’ begins with the christening of Princess Aurora. Due to an error on the part of Catalabutte, the King’s chief minister, the fairy Carabosse has been left off the guest list. The evil fairy crashes the royal event and states that on Aurora’s sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. The Lilac Fairy softens the spell, saying that Aurora will not die at age sixteen. She will merely sleep for 100 years.
In Act I (“The Spell”) it is Aurora’s sixteenth birthday. Princes from the four corners of the earth have arrived to ask for the Princess’ hand in marriage. Carabosse, disguised as an old crone, gives Aurora a bouquet of flowers. Hidden within the flowers is a spindle upon which the Princess pricks her finger. The Lilac Fairy returns and sees to it that Aurora, the King, the Queen and the entire court fall asleep for 100 years.
In Act II (“The Vision”) the Lilac Fairy shows a jaded and discontented Prince Desire a vision of Aurora. The Prince falls in love and pleads with the Lilac Fairy to take him to the sleeping princess. When he reaches her, Prince Desire awakens Aurora with a kiss. In the final act (“The Wedding Celebration”) Aurora and her prince get married.
The July 6th matinee of ABT’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ contains several wonderful performances. First of all is Xiomara Reyes’ Princess Aurora. Except for a very slight slip at the beginning of the third fish dive of the Grand Pas, Reyes does not put a foot or hand wrong. Her Rose Adagio, where the sixteen year old Princess is being wooed by four suitors, is even better than when I saw her as Aurora two years ago. Reyes’ balances are very secure and her control and musicality are evident throughout the ballet. As well Reyes shows the Princess’ progression from luminous sixteen year old (“The Spell”) to celestial being (“The Vision”) to blissfully happy young bride (“The Wedding Celebration”).
The Royal Danish Ballet dancer, Alban Lendorf, is a superb Prince Desire. He impresses the audience with his soaring leaps with plush landings and his exciting multiple air turns. He is also a wonderful actor (He is Danish after all.) and a very assured and attentive partner.
Yuriko Kajiya is a wonderfully lyrical Lilac Fairy. Her beautiful port de bras and exquisitely lovely hands highlight the grandeur of the lead fairy. Stella Abrera dances the role of Princess Florine with glistening grace. As her partner Sascha Radetsky is a revelation. His is the best Bluebird variation I’ve seen since Angel Corella danced the role in the 1990s. His ballon is superb and his leg beats are performed expertly. The audience clearly shows its appreciation of both Abrera and Radetsky.
I still wish ABT would bring back ‘The Sleeping Beauty’s entire Act III (“The Wedding Celebration”). I have to admit, however, that the July 6th matinee performance was truly beautiful and a great way to end the 2013 New York Spring/Summer ballet season.