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Birmingham Royal Ballet - Sleeping Beauty - Autumn 2013


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Interesting to see the spacious, modern studio in the context of BRB's claim to need new ones and to have the oldest studios among the country's leading ballet companies. Clearly noone from that company has seen the difficult and cramped conditions in which ENB rehearses.

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Interesting to see the spacious, modern studio in the context of BRB's claim to need new ones and to have the oldest studios among the country's leading ballet companies.

 

I'd never heard that claim, but yes, ENB's must be a lot older.

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A lovely performance at The Lowry to open the season and a quite stellar cast!  It is good to see the use of so many principals throughout the ballet as well as the main roles.  Marion Tait was indeed a steely Carabosse and even at curtain call the evil looks continued!  The company danced well and seemed very together - as always when it comes to BRB and again, as I always say, they seemed to enjoy the ballet as much as the very appreciative audience.  It was lovely to see the ever professional Nao Sakuma dancing with Chi Cao and then to see newly promoted principal Momomko Hirata as a fairy and in the Bluebird pdd partnered by Mattias Dingman who gave a solid performance of Bluebird.

I do like to look at costumes and I found the ones for this production just a bit too much gold, gold lame and brown shades the set was very gold too.  I think if funding allowed the production would benefit from a new set of costumes that are much brighter and lighter in weight some of the poor character dancers seemed to be dragging whole duvets behind them and must have been boiled under them and their very heavy looking wigs!

The performance was watched by amongst others David Bintley and Sir Peter Wright which I think is very nice and also very caring to ensure the Company keeps its standards.  A very enjoyable evening.

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I didn't particularly notice the speed of the music but I think the orchestra is sounding wonderful.

 

I thought Jenna was utterly sublime as Aurora last night and Iain was her perfect Prince.  A special performance indeed.

 

In the afternoon Elisha Willis and Jamie Bond were terrific together too.

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When I first saw what was coming up this season I was quite disappointed that it was Sleeping Beauty yet again.  After a week of performances at The Lowry, I really do not know why I thought I was sick and tired of Sleeping Beauty! 

 

Sir Peter Wright's production for Birmingham Royal Ballet is my favourite of all the conventional productions I have seen.  I love the oppulent sets and costumes and the attention to detail.

 

We saw four casts over six performances and they are all good to see.

 

Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao opened the BRB Autumn Season on Wednesday evening and, for me, it was a really special performance that just sparkled from start to finish.  I think, for me, Nao has become incomparable as Aurora (I don't know how the grit got into my eyes during the Rose Adagio) and Chi is utterly magnificent at the moment.  Marion Tait was a terrifying Carabosse and Jenna Roberts was gorgeous as Lilac Fairy.  The whole company sparkled and fizzed like the finest vintage champagne.  This cast also performed yesterday afternoon and were just as special.

On Thursday afternoon I thought Elisha Willis looked somewhat nervous until after she had got the Rose Adagio out of the way.  From then on she was stunning and Jamie Bond was on superb form as her Prince Florimund.  They gave the final performance of the week last night and were just wonderful - Elisha was on top form.  I particularly love her in the vision scene - she is so limpid and melting.  Samara Downs froze the blood in my veins as Carabosse and Delia Mathews was a delight as Lilac Fairy.

 

Thursday was another one of those performances where you just melt in the middle.  Jenna Roberts was exquisite as Aurora and Iain Mackay her perfect Prince.  Again there was a lot of grit in my eyes during the Rose Adagio.  Yvette Knight was a serene Lilac Fairy facing down Marion Tait's Carabosse.

 

Natasha Oughtred was a radiant and gentle Aurora and Cesar Morales her gorgeously romantic Prince Florimund.  Callie Roberts made her debut as Carabosse and was spine-tinglingly terrifying!  Yijing Zhang was a benevolent and serene Lilac Fairy who just radiated goodness as a perfect foil to Callie's vicious fairy.

We were treated to some terrific Bluebirds too.  Momoko Hirata and Mathias Dingman were as wonderful as you would expect.  I loved Celine Gittens with Yasuo Atsuji too.  One evening we had a special treat with Nao Sakuma and William Bracewell.  Last night Maureya Lebowitz and Max Maslen were a delight. 

I love the pdq in Act 3 and we saw some terrific performances.  Lachlan Monaghan's deft and sparkling feet were a particular delight!  All the dancers we saw in this delicious pdq had a superb synchronicity.

All the corps work had a pleasing synchronicity about it too.  Everyone contributes to the performance - even the Footmas who opens the curtain to start the performance.  BRB is on sparkling form throughout.

 

What a week!!

Edited by Janet McNulty
Amended to correct a spelling mistake
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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw 2 performances in Birmingham yesterday.

 

In the afternoon Nao and Chi were exemplars and gave a truly scintillating performance.  I love Yijing Zhang as the Lilac Fairy, she radiates good-fairyness and was a great foil for Marion Tait's sheer evilness.  The corps were on splendid form.  Actually the whole performance was wonderful!

 

In the evening, Maureya Lebowitz and Mathias Dingman made their debuts.  Wow!  Maureya was a young Princess confident in the love of her parents and her Rose Adagio was breath-taking in its attack and confidence.  Mathias is becoming a superb actor and he portrayed a young Prince who was a bit aimless and lovelorn who fell in love with the vision of Aurora.  The vision scene between them was sublime and the gpdd in Act 3 was glorious.  Callie Roberts gave another terrifying performance as Carabosse, with Yijing reprising her role as Lilac Fairy.  Celine Gittens and Yasuo Atsuji were splendid together in Bluebird.

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Am glad to see Cesar Morales is dancing with the BRB. I was following him in the Prix de Lausanne last year(among others) and he was one of the ones who stood out then.....I didn't realise he had been offered a contract with BRB.

 

I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty for quite a few years now!! I always get put off with the usually very late finish and having to get home afterwards even if just to another part of London!!

But will try to catch a matinee at some point. In fact matinees generally are becoming more and more appealing these days and often there are excellent casts then too. That music to the entrance of Aurora still strikes a thrilling chord though after all these years!!

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DD and I spent a couple of hours thoroughly enchanted at the Hippodrome last night - lovely performances and you are so right about the gorgeous sets Janet - very opulent, delivering you straight into the magic!  

 

My DD attends weekly classes and rehearsals with Midland Theatre Ballet at the BRB studios and for weeks we've seen the costumes hanging on rails so it was fantastic to finally see them being worn on stage :) DD's favourite was the White Cat costume - she asked me if she could have a costume like that for her next Character dance!  

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I've just seen that there's an offer of half-price tickets on Sleeping Beauty (at Sadler's Wells) on the Official London Theatre website. I don't know how long the offer lasts and whether there is only a limited number of tickets on offer.

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BRB start their run of SleepingB's in London tonight...

 

Jenna Roberts is the lead and I could do with a great shot of her - a curtain call one, 'cos anything else would be wrong. If anybody takes a good snap of her can they let me know please... Ta!

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I went to the performance last night, but I didn't take a camera.  Sorry Bruce. 

 

Just a few rambling thoughts, in no particular order, not really on the dancing itself but the production.  This is a gorgeous Sleeping Beauty visually, with lovely costumes and great sets.  My one teeny tiny complaint is that sometimes I would like to see the Lilac Fairy in a proper lilac costume.  The dress for this production is in such a pale colour, it looked more like the Silver Fairy.  It is, however, a very gracious and elegant outfit.  I have no problem with the Lilac Fairy being a non dancing role.  It balances out the Carabosse character.  These are clearly two senior fairies with equal powers, so it makes more sense that the Lilac Fairy can remove the fatal spell cast by Carabosse with her own fairy gift.  Marion Tate was a wonderfully evil Carabosse, and I loved the curtain call at the end, where she and Lilac Fairy came on together and remained in character as they .took their curtseys (each keeping a very careful and wary eye on the other!) 

 

All the dancers seemed to be performing with verve and style. I even enjoyed the Puss-in-Boots and Red Riding Hood dances. In the past, I have sometimes got a trifle bored with these, feeling that this is supposed to be a wedding celebration for Royalty, so why have we got people prancing around in animal costumes? 

 

Mathias Dingman and Momoko Hirata were wonderful in the Bluebird solos, although I did think the wig for Mathias made him look a bit like Julian Clary. 

 

Iain Mackay was a marvellously regal Prince, managing the difficult task of looking handsome and debonaire in white tights, and Jenna Roberts was a beautiful Sleeping Beauty.  Personally, I thought she was very nervous throughout the Rose Adagio.  However, once that was over, she seemed to relax and settle down.  I won't go into detail about that, as I might put my thoughts on that particular solo into a separate post.

 

A question for people who have seen this production (or any other production, it might be a standard mime for all of them).  When the prince first appears with the party of ladies in riding outfits, what particular activity does he decline when they all go off together and he stays behind alone?  As far as I could make out, it looked as though they were going to do a bit of digging with a spade!  No wonder he declined, pale tights don't go along with that activity at all. 

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I think that many very experienced ballerinas are nervous until they have got the Rose Adagio out of the way. It's a huge challenge, particularly coming so soon after Aurora's entrance. I feel nervous as well and don't relax until it's over.

 

It's probably sacrilege to say this, but I do wonder whether SB would benefit from a bit of cutting. It's a very long ballet (particularly with the 25 minute intervals at the ROH) for children (and people having to get trains after evening performances). As Fonteyn22 says, the fairytale character dances don't make much sense and could be cut (cue howls of outrage) and all the other Gold, Silver etc variations reduced (cue further howls).

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I think one possible way round the time prob would be to start certain programmes lie Sleeping Beauty half an hour early say at 7 pm

The ROH do this sometimes but not always and definitely cut the intervals down rather than the dancing 20 mins is ample for an interval in my view so 10- 15 mins could be saved there too!

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Aileen, I agree with you.  When it was danced as well as last night, I don't mind, but they do come at the end of a fairly long evening.  They are fun pieces, but I don't think the ballet would suffer any if they were cut out.

 

Talking of the other variations, the costumes for the Pas de Quatre included tutus for the ladies with black underskirts.  When the ladies lifed their legs, they looked as though they were wearing sheer black knickers.  I have never really associated these dances with saucy lingerie before!

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Yes, I think that longer programmes, not just at the ROH but elsewhere, should start at 7pm. Even after the ballet finishes - and sometimes the curtain calls are lengthy - it can take some time to get out of the theatre. At the Coliseum and Sadler's Wells the intervals are supposedly shorter but they often seem to overrun.

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aileen, my husband would agree wholeheartedly about cutting Sleeping Beauty. He nearly dropped off several times during the final act last Christmas at the Coli.

 

Nothing against ENB; their version is wonderful and the corps in particular are so fabulous - dd and I loved it - but he was very tired! I think he'd have enjoyed it much more had it been cut by 20-30 minutes. :-)

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Yes, I was the same last night, for the same reason, I was just very tired.

 

Why are  the Puss in Boots and Red Riding Hood variations there in the first place?  The music certainly sounds cat like for the former, did Tchaikovsky actually create and insert this particular piece of music here for a special reason?  Or did he create a piece and somebody thought it would be a good idea to put it into the Act III celebrations?

 

I've tried a quick google, but I can't find anything on the creation of either the music or the ballet, so I would be interested to know. 

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At the Coliseum and Sadler's Wells the intervals are supposedly shorter but they often seem to overrun.

 

I'm never sure with the Coli whether they actually *take* longer, or whether it's because they lie when they give you a "3-minute" bell.  (I don't think I've ever known it be less than 5 minutes!)

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I think there may have been a lot more fairy tale characters in the original - look at the costumes that come on at the start of Act 3 of the BRB production!  I assume the fairytale characters are the equivalent of the national dances in Act 3 of Swan Lake.

 

Although the Awakening Duet was only added last time around, in the BRB production the hunting scene has been savaged to make way for it.  I can remember seeing Michael O'Hare as Gallison getting drunker and drunker at the side of the stage while the hunters were pratting around - hilarious!

 

I have always assumed the hunt was going after wild pigs, which I believe tended to be speared.  Judging by the outfits I assume the horses were waiting for them off stage!

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Spearing wild pigs?  Goodness, did ladies indulge in such bloodthirsty activities?  No wonder the Prince refused, he certainly wasn't dressed for the occasion!

 

I didn't really notice all the costumes at the start of Act 3, there was so much going on, but I did notice at the curtain call that there was somebody wearing an animal mask of some kind, and another male dressed in some sort of Ali Baba outfit.  I suppose we should be thankful the 40 Thieves didn't turn up and do individual variations.  

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