David McAllister’s Sleeping Beauty, the fourth Australian Ballet production since Robert Helpmann’s in 1973, premiered on September 15, the most lavish and, at $2 million, the most expensive of them all.
There is good dancing in abundance. As Aurora, the princess woken from her century-long sleep by a Prince, handsome of course, Lana Jones is exquisite, technically assured, strong yet delicate. She is at first shy then warm, even a little coquettish, with her four Act 1 suitors, while throwing affectionate glances to her royal parents. As the vision, which appears to the prince in Act 2, she is gracefully ethereal, then matures into elated regality in the Act 3 duet celebrating her marriage with the Prince. Kevin Jackson is everything princely – noble in bearing, somewhat melancholy until the vision of Aurora appears, and a true partner in their dancing together. The lightness and gaiety of his solos are matched by his strength and tenderness with Jones in Act 3. Their chemistry is potent. As Carabosse, the fairy left o the invitation list to Aurora’s christening who takes revenge by promising the princess will die at 16, Lynette Wills has great fun putting her curse on the baby – a curse thwarted by Amber Scott’s Lilac Fairy, shining with benign goodness. The rest of the cast, soloists and corps de ballet, are in top form. McAllister has made several changes to the story and choreography, some of them good. He provides a reason for Carabosse’s lack of invitation, for instance – Catalabutte, the o fficial in charge, dislikes her and crosses her name o with a vengeful ourish. Act 2 is considerably reduced to advantage by omitting the courtiers’ dances and a game of blind man’s bu . However, in Act 1, Aurora’s six friends are behind her, sometimes moving, during the Rose Adage, which lessens focus on this most famously di fficult moment in the ballet. In Act 3 the trio for Florestan and his sisters has been replaced by an ensemble and solos for the six fairies, and, of the fairytale characters, only four couples remain, and only the Bluebirds have kept their variation. Then there are the décor and costumes by Gabriela Tylesova. A fixed set of spiral columns are perhaps intended to suggest cornucopias, but unfortunately resemble ice-cream cones – ‘Mr Whippy?’ someone murmured. Some costumes are delightful, including the fairies’ and the magni ficent white and gold Louis XIV dressing for Act 3, but the violent turquoise suits for the men and bright rose pink dresses for the women for the Act 1 Garland dance are way over the top. So, a decidedly mixed production of this great ballet, coming to Adelaide in 2017