Without a doubt, this is a gorgeous production of one of the most performed ballets in the world, and the Australian Ballet gives an all stops out performance.
I’ll get my main grouch out of the way first. Given I believe over $100,000 by the late great Adelaide patron of the arts Diana Ramsay for design, Gabriel Tylesova went rather over the top; her sets particularly and some of her costumes overwhelm the dancers.
The dancers, however, are generally superb, supported by the ASO under Nicolette Fraillon. Admittedly the overture was too fast, and the beginning of the Prologue a little wobbly, as were the dancers, but things soon settled down and the enchantment began.
The familiar story is about the princess Aurora who is cursed by the witch Carabosse for being left off the invitation list to Aurora’s christening. Carabosse proclaims the princess will die on her 16th birthday, but the Lilac Fairy, who comes late to the party, announces Aurora will merely sleep for 100 years and be woken by a handsome prince.
Friday night’s Aurora was a luminous Robyn Hendricks, making her first night debut in the role. From her first entrance she lit up the stage, and she is blessed with remarkable balance. She reminded me of Peggy Sager, star of the Borovansky Ballet in the ‘50s, and more recently of the divine Lucinda Dunn. Hendricks brings to the role an acting capacity which moves from the joyous youth of the 16th birthday — in which she easily conquers the formidable difficulties of the Rose adage — through the dreaminess of the Act Two forest scene to the grandeur of the marriage in Act Three. Aurora’s relationship with her parents (and how nice to see Elizabeth Toohey on stage again) is warmly presented in the glances she gives them. Excellent technically, with fluently expressive hands and arms, Hendricks creates a character which develops throughout the ballet.
Although he has to wait through two acts, Ty King-Wall also establishes himself as a convincing actor-dancer. I’d like to see his Albrecht in Giselle. He has a soaring jump, spot on timing and a strong engagement with his audience. And, importantly, he is a warm, caring and reliable partner to his ballerina.
The whole company is dancing at the top of its form. There is more animation of facial expression than there was a few years ago, apart from a few lapses at the beginning, the timing, especially among the men, is noticeably sharp, and the various fairies acquit themselves with spritely grace. Valerie Tereschenko’s Lilac Fairy, given more to do than in a traditional production, was gracious, and rather bossy in the nicest way. Alice Topp’s Carabosse, however, needs to be much more vengeful. More drama needed.
It’s a pity that the fairytale characters of the original are not given their variations during Act Three, the wedding — Red Riding Hood, the White Cat and Puss in Boots, for instance — they just appear among the guests. However the Bluebird and his Princess Florine are still there, and Brett Chynoweth and Jade Wood are a delightful pair. Chynoweth in particular has an excitingly clean technique — just look at those entrechats!
All in all, David McAllister has produced a thoroughly enjoyably remastering of one of the greatest classics of the ballet repertoire.
The Sleeping Beauty was performed at Adelaide Festival Theatre on July 6 and continues there until July 12.
Header image: Robyn Hendricks, Ty King-Wall and Valerie Tereshchenko (Photo: Kate Longley)