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The Royal Ballet - Sleeping Beauty, Spring 2014


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Hi Alison, I was just about to start one! I’ll post some more later but I just wanted to kick off this thread by saying Lauren Cuthbertson was total perfection in today’s matinee. I loved the whole thing so much and cannot wait to go again.

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Thanks, Timmie. Looking forward to seeing her later in the run.

 

While trawling around the ROH site just now, I came across this short article on Oliver Messel by Roy Strong: http://www.roh.org.uk/news/oliver-messel-the-often-unsung-designer-who-created-a-landmark-royal-ballet-production

 

Taken from this year's programme, apparently.

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  I don't usually check the cast for a performance but I had particularly booked to see Mr Pennefather dance this role today.  However, having booked twice to see Mr Golding with the ENB, and missing both the performances due to ill health, I was very excited when I realised he was todays replacement.  

 I was not disappointed.  Matthew Golding definitely has a real stage presence and was a very lovely Prince Florimund to the equally lovely Lauren Cuthbertson's, Princess Aurora.  They really brought the stage to light with their combined presence, and I really noticed the lack of it when they left.  I think Matthew Golding really lived up to the pre-publicity and acquitted himself perfectly.

 

My only criticism of the overall performance was the interruption of clapping at certain points.  I know other people have mentioned this in audience behaviour, but I have never been to a ballet where I was so irritated by it.  I noticed it particularly during the Princess Florine and the Bluebird sequences.  Although the dancers were very good, their repeated stopping to accept applause, and bow and curtsey as if they were taking a curtain call, was very distracting, and I lost interest in the story when they did this.

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I must admit that clapping during Sleeping Beauty doesn't bother me; there's no story to speak of during the divertissements and some of the choreography is fiendishly difficult. I think the dancers this evening deserved every bit of applause and it didn't hold up proceedings.

 

We were so lucky this evening; as well as a flawless and radiant Sarah Lamb, Mr McRae was absolutely incredible; I thought he was going to spin himself off the stage at one point! Laura McCulloch was a strong Lilac Fairy and I was over the moon to see Yuhui who was absolutely enchanting.

 

What a lovely early birthday present for dd. :-)

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I wouldn't mind getting a birthday present like that :)

 

Overall I enjoyed tonight's show, though SB will probably never be one of my favourite ballets. I quite liked the fairies in the Bolshoi version, but something about the choreography or styling in the RB version just doesn't quite work for me. They appear as if in slow motion, but staccato at the same time. I don't think I'd cry if I accidentally missed the prologue for another performance.

 

Lamb and McRae were crystalline and marvellous, and the lifts at the end were just a piece of beauty - both of them perfectly in synch, making it look like the easiest thing in the world (which I strongly suspect it really isn't)

 

Other highlights for me were the fairy car (I always envision someone with a huge remote standing in the wings to 'drive' it) and Puss-in-boots. Elsa Godard was definitely feline, quite slinky and between her and Paul Kay they really managed to make it funny.

 

In slippery floor news: both Zucchetti and McRae seemed to have had tiny slips in roughly the same spot. I'm hoping that was co-incidence and does not turn into another onstage blackspot.

Edited by Coated
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I managed to see the matinee and the evening performances today - no, that's now yesterday (Saturday). Some random thoughts:

 

- The orchestra under Ovsyanikov kept all the sparkle in the quite long score although they did it twice and must have been tired - the entr'acte between 3 and 4 means they have to keep going for positively Mahlerian lengths!... We are lucky indeed in our musicians.

 

- Matt Golding was splendid at the matinee (was this his official first performance as Principal?) and kept up with Lauren Cuthbertson so well. Really enjoyed seeing them together. 

 

- James Hay and Akane Takada were a very creditable pair of bluebirds at the matinee : he is so good but seems to need to "let go" a bit. I think we should see much more of him - he did himself proud in the Nutcracker too.

 

- At both performances Thomas Whitehead's Cattalabutte was really thought through and funny to boot. He occasionally seemed to be channelling Dame Maggie Smith!

 

- In the evening Sarah Lamb and Stephen McRae showed again what natural partners they are. There is such a sort of understanding, or so it seems, between them. I love the way he just plucks her out of the air and nonchalantly pops her onto his knee -  and the way she makes this seem a perfectly natural place to end up. Individually, too, they are such fine dancers : I saw more beauty in the pas de deux than ever before, thanks to them.

 

- Has anyone else noticed David Donnelly beavering away in the background? I hope he will be given more to do soon - he brandished his garland markedly better than some of the other boys and seemed to be visibly enjoying what is a pretty joyous dance. I remember in Don Q he was always busy and in character in the background, and the same in the Nutcracker, even when he wasn't hauling Mr Montano off stage left - which he must have dreaded very night!

 

Coated - one for you ... How exactly DOES the fairy carriage work? It nearly brought one of the flats down this evening on its way out. Reminds me a bit of one of those robot hoovers ....

 

Two great shows. And I'm looking forward too Wednesday and Thursday now, as well!

Edited by simonbfisher
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Oh, I forgot about the carriage/boat's navigation error! :-) It made quite a bang!

 

Yes, Lamb and Mcrae made the grand pdd look positively easy - their dancing and that glorious music brought tears to my eyes. Just beautiful.

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We saw delicious bluebirds last night from Choe and Zuchetti. He had really done his bird-study - it's the first time I've seen a bluebird who convinced me he had wings!

 

I was happy, too, to hear Ovsyanikov setting danceable tempi - the last run was spoiled, for me, by Gruzin's unobservant conducting.

 

On the subject of applause: as I understand it, there are certain pieces, including the last act divertissements, where the bows from the performers are actually a set part of the production; they have to take the bow, regardless of applause or its absence.

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I will have to wait a couple of weeks to seem Lamb/McRae, but it was worth missing out on an all-too-rare sunny day yesterday afternoon to be inside the Opera House watching Lauren Cuthbertson and Matthew Golding.  They, and the company, managed to make the sun shine indoors.  

 

Lauren was a lovely Aurora, happy, confident, joyful and exuberant, telling the story of the character's development through a combination of fabulous footwork, graceful arms, pin-point turns and her beautiful, emotional facial expressions.  She is one of those dancers whose face can match her body for imparting depth of feeling, be it joy or despair.  She arrived with such confidence on the stage, and used all of it to best advantage.  Her jumps seem higher, her spins faster, and her coverage of the stage wider.  She performed a very solid Rose Adage and we were thrilled for her, as she showed us how thrilled she was to be 16 and on the cusp of womanhood and all that that brings.

 

Matthew Golding made a very impressive debut as a full member of the company.  I love his dancing;  he jumps high, he uses the whole stage, he lands well and his feet are always in the right place.  More importantly, in this ballet, he was a wonderful and attentive partner.  He and Lauren only had a few days' rehearsal time together, but you would never have known it.  They both go all out in their dancing and hold nothing back;  I can see a potential partnership developing there (much as I love Lauren and Bonelli's partnership too).  I loved their grand pdd in Act 3, and those three fish dives said everything there is to say about the first flush of youthful love and lust;  I don't think I've ever seen them done so strongly, so quickly and with so much deeper meaning!!  

 

I thought the rest of the company warmed up as the action progressed.  I loved James Hay's Bluebird and think it will develop.  Yasmine Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell were on double duty as fairies and then in the pdt in Act 3.  Both were gorgeous in both roles.  Beatriz had a tiny slip in the pdt, but not having seen the evening performance I don't know if it was in the same place as the evening slips.  But it was hardly noticeable.  What a wonderful actress Elizabeth McGorian is;  I loved her Carabosse, sarcastic yet sexy, nasty yet funny.  You could hear her gasp as she disappears underneath the stage;  scary!  Melissa Hamilton is a dancer I really like in the more 'contemporary' pieces, or in MacMillan, but for me she just doesn't look like a natural classical dancer, and isn't 'bien dans sa peau' when she has a tutu on.  As Lilac Fairy she seemed nervous in her Act 1 solo, but delivered it ok, and she was better in the next two acts, although neither of them require Lilac to dance much, if at all.  I think she is the company's female Ed Watson....and that is a big compliment!

 

Like Coated, Sleeping Beauty is probably my least favourite classical ballet, but this was a fabulous opening to the current run.  I was enraptured and surprisingly I didn't find myself wondering what to cook for dinner in the middle of it which is often the case.  I look forward very much to the other casts.  

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Well I really love the prologue fairies, I especially enjoy the finger variation and I thought Claudia Dean did this really well, both strong and pretty.

 

The Rose Adagio was beautifully done (to my still-learning eyes) and really shows Cuthbertson’s superb lines. Miss Cuthbertson’s scene where Aurora pricks her finger was quite moving and despite knowing what was about to happen I couldn’t help but wish someone could move a bit faster and stop her! Her swooning/collapsing scene along with that fantastic piece of musical accompaniment was quite emotional.

 

Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Yasmine Naghdi were perfectly matched and cast as Florestan’s sisters – though one of them, Miss Naghdi I think, had a skid at front right of stage, it didn’t put her off her stride though.

 

The Cuthbertson/Golding grand pdd was excellent, their lines really complement one another, I guess they must have had little practice together but it really didn’t show.

 

All in all very pleased with my first live Sleeping Beauty and very much looking forward to seeing Nuñez/Soares and Osipova/Golding. It should be a fantastic contrast between Cuthbertson/Nuñez/Osipova, three very wonderful but very different ballerinas.

 

Edit: Sim, I was typing my post as you were posting yours (and I am a slow typer). It looks like we are in agreement (except that SB may be my favourite ballet!). You choose your words so much more eloquently though :D .

Edited by Timmie
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While I have no complaints whatsoever about Matthew Golding's dancing and partnering which I thought were first class and fully justify his engagement as principal, I did feel that for much of his time on stage he looked distinctly ill at ease. In act 2 his mime was sketchy and in both acts 2 and 3 his mouth was half open most of the time and as far as I could see - and I have quite a powerful pair of binoculars - he never smiled once, despite receiving many dazzling smiles from Lauren. Only at the end of his variation and of the pdd and finally at the curtain calls did he relax and smile. I can only assume that he was nervous, as well he might have been, having been catapulted into a new (for him) production at short notice and with a new partner. No doubt things will improve as he settles into the company.

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. How exactly DOES the fairy carriage work? It nearly brought one of the flats down this evening on its way out. Reminds me a bit of one of those robot hoovers ....

 

 

 

I had the good fortune to visit the Props Department when they were making this SB carriage. It has that large section at the back because inside is a mobility scooter driven by, I think, a stage manager (unless it's changed since the original). They had also finished making the cradle, and it was there complete with baby doll who'd been given a bottle by one of the staff (and it wasn't a milk bottle!). Anyone noticed that the adult bed has similarities to the cradle?

Edited by MargaretN7
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I had the good fortune to visit the Props Department when they were making this SB carriage. It has that large section at the back because inside is a mobility scooter driven by, I think, a stage manager (unless it's changed since the original). They had also finished making the cradle, and it was there complete with baby doll who'd been given a bottle by one of the staff (and it wasn't a milk bottle!). Anyone noticed that the adult bed has similarities to the cradle?

I think I have a photo of that bottle somewhere...

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While I have no complaints whatsoever about Matthew Golding's dancing and partnering which I thought were first class and fully justify his engagement as principal, I did feel that for much of his time on stage he looked distinctly ill at ease. In act 2 his mime was sketchy and in both acts 2 and 3 his mouth was half open most of the time and as far as I could see - and I have quite a powerful pair of binoculars - he never smiled once, despite receiving many dazzling smiles from Lauren. Only at the end of his variation and of the pdd and finally at the curtain calls did he relax and smile. I can only assume that he was nervous, as well he might have been, having been catapulted into a new (for him) production at short notice and with a new partner. No doubt things will improve as he settles into the company.

 

Wulff - glad you posted and as ever a wonderful example of delivering good and not so good views of a performance. I wasn't there but my big question was how did Golding go, given that hitherto in London he has not really shown himself as a great actor. As you say the late casting did him no favours and in all other respects he is a real catch. I really do cross my fingers that he will be able to absorb at least some of the theatricality of the company he is now in. If he does then he really will be a complete package and in the right place.

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Bruce - which members of the RB do you regard as 'great actors'? 

 

I don't think its about being great actors so much as the company is inherently theatrical (more than most companies) and most of the dancers can act well enough and some amazingly well. Anybody who struggles to act can really stand out. When Golding danced with Rojo at the Albert Hall I said things rather like Wulff has - wonderful technique, looks amazing, but I was moved not a jot. And that's rare at this level.  Of course we all see things differently and put different priorities on various facets of being an RB dancer. Be interesting to see how it goes for him.

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I was at Friday's rehearsal with the Yuhui Choe/Ryoichi Hirano cast (their opening is Wenesday 26th Feb). As ever, Sleeping Beauty has so many soloist slots its hard to do it justice with just a few photos. Hoping the sample gallery captures at least some of the grandeur and marvelous performances. Here are a couple of samples...
 
12727595964_bf83137be5_z.jpg
Fairy of the Crystal Fountain (Olivia Cowley)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

12727583234_d8024c2ca6_z.jpg
Ryoichi Hirano & Yuhui Choe (Prince Florimund & Princess Aurora)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
 
 
See more...
Set from DanceTabs - The Royal Ballet in 'The Sleeping Beauty'
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

By kind permission of the Royal Opera House

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Saw Lamb and Mc Rae-Saturday evening-she was radiant, is the only word and he was just incredible.

 The best male dancing I have seen on the ROH stage I think.

I agree with earlier posters that they have a fine partnership. The grand pdd was a treat.

I was a bit less impressed by the Lilac Fairy. Everything else was good.

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Good though Melissa is in MacMillan roles, from what I have heard she would prefer to be a "tutu" ballerina. It is noticeable how much her technique has improved over the past couple of years - the result of hard work - and I thought that her Lilac Fairy variation at last Saturday's matinee although not perfect - whose is except for Marianela? -  was very creditably performed and better than that of the evening's dancer who unfortunately was not at the top of her form. I also liked the combination of sweetness - without being saccharine - and authority Melissa brings to the role, a perfect combination.

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Maybe she will become more of a 'tutu' ballerina as time goes on;  but for me she still doesn't look as comfortable in these roles as she does in the other types I mentioned above.  I will be interested to compare her to the other Lilacs in the run. 

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Am I the only person who finds the RB Sleeping Beauty terribly dull?

 

There are some superb 'set pieces' in it (the Fairy variations - except Lilac's, Rose Adage etc + aurora's friends (and Lilac attendants have a nice bit too), the grande pas de deux, Bluebird, Florestan + kin, the 'vision scene') but an awful lot of dross too. In any run, after 2-3 shows I struggle with the 70mins stand for the combo last 2 acts, for sure.

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