The Sleeping Beauty has been performed at many key moments in the Royal Ballet's history. To coincide with the Company's 75th Anniversary, Monica Mason and Christopher Newton created a new production based on the Sergeye... more »v/De Valois/Messel production that was first performed by the company in 1946. Peter Farmer recreated and augmented Oliver Messel's designs adn Christopher Wheeldon choreographed a new Garland Dance for this production.« less
"This release of "Sleeping Beauty," a filmed performance by the Royal Ballet, was eagerly anticipated by myself after I watched the telecast. I think, all things considered, that this is the best Sleeping Beauty DVD on the market. Other videos might have finer individual performances (Margot Fonteyn, Yuri Soloviev, Alla Sizova) but those videos are all severely abridged versions of the ballet, and the video quality is not high. This "Sleeping Beauty" has a fine cast, great video quality, and an excellent production.
I'll go over several aspects of this video:
1. The production - The Royal Ballet has always prided itself on its production of Sleeping Beauty. The famous 1946 Oliver Messel production made Margot Fonteyn an international star. Over the years, replacements for the Messel production were never very successful. In the early 1990s a production by Anthony Dowell was released on video. Viviana Durante was an excellent Aurora, but the sets and costumes were terrible and much criticized. This video is a replica of sorts of the Messel production, although the costumes have not been replicated, and the Garland Dance was choreographed by the up and coming Christopher Wheeldon. I don't like the overly pastelish, glittery costumes of the fairies, but these criticisms are mainly for the Prologue, and the sets have a grand simplicity.
2. The choreography of the Royal Ballet's production has always been its strong point. I remember an interview with the formidable Ninette di Valois when she took care to explain the difference between "production," which she says is wont to change a lot, with "choreography," which is much more constant. The Royal Ballet's choreography is was heavily based on Diaghilev's 1921 production for the Ballet Russes and Petipa assistant Sergeyev's original notations, and it preserves much of the crucial mime of the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse. Unlike Nureyev's production for the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet's choreography has no gratuitous interpolated solos for the Prince. The famous fishdives in the Grand pas de deux that Diaghilev added to the 1921 Ballet Russes production are here as well.
3. The dancers - Alina Cojocaru in the title role gives a performance for the ages. Cojocaru is not a stereotypical ballerina. Her face makes her look eternally girlish rather than conventionally beautiful. She lacks the large eyes and high cheekbones of most ballerinas. She is extremely thin, but has short, extremely wide feet without much of an arch. Her strength is in her technique and her personality. Her feet look weak, but she is incredibly strong as a dancer. In Act 1 it's hard to expect anything more from an Aurora. Her jump is airy and light, her turns fast and secure, and she zips through the Rose Adagio with long-held balances and barely a wobble. In the Vision Scene she transforms herself effortlessly into a wispy, otherworldy creature. She has a bubbly, sweet stage presence that's apparent even in the Regal Act 3 wedding scene. Cojocaru was born in Romania and trained in the Russian style at the Kiev Ballet before she joined the Royal Ballet. Her dancing style combines the best of both worlds, having the crisp solidity usually associated with the British style along with the soft Romantic port te bras, expansiveness, and delicacy of the Russian school.
Her partner was supposed to be her offstage boyfriend Johan Kobborg, but Kobborg was injured, and Frederico Bonelli danced in his place. But the last-minute substitution is not reflected in the performance. Bonelli is princely and handsome, and he partners Cojocaru very well, especially in the Wedding grand pas de deux. They are much better matched than the tiny Viviana Durante and the extremely tall Zoltan Solymosi in the 1993 video.
Marianela Nunez is herself an acclaimed Aurora, but she gives the Lilac Fairy a sweetness and graciousness that is most welcome. This fairy is never remote, always benevolent. I agree that at times she seems a little too human, but I can't complain. Her variation in the Prologue is much superior to Benazir Hussein, in the Dowell production video.
It's a sign of the top-down quality of the video's cast that the Florine (Sarah Lamb) is also a principal dancer and acclaimed Aurora. The divertissements in Act 3 are very well-danced.
4. The video quality - very high. The sound is well balanced, the close-ups are well placed so as not to distract from the overall dancing.
Overall, Opus Arte has released yet another treasurable video from the Royal Ballet. (Fille Mal Gardee and Sylvia are also highly recommended.)"
Unroyal Royal Ballet
Peter N. Breitman | St. Louis, Mo. | 09/10/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"At the time of this writing, there are two other reviews of this performance of "The Sleeping Beauty." (More have been added between that time and this editing of my original review) One reviewer divided her review into four sections: the production, the choreography, the dancers and the video quality. I won't repeat, or cover the same ground that she did, except for the fact that she did comment upon the fact that many previous recordings had been severely abridged. What was she thinking when she reviewed this DVD? EVERY DVD has been abridged, some more or less than others. Therefore, I would like to add a fifth category that was overlooked: the QUANTITY of music. Tchaikovsky's music for "The Sleeping Beauty" is nothing short of magnificent. There is no more beautiful ballet music. It is an atrocity to have so much of this beautiful music excised from any production, especially from one by a world-renowned ballet company such as The Royal Ballet. In this DVD, the Prologue and Act I contain most of the music that Tchaikovsky had written for them, but Acts II and III were completely emasculated. Dance after dance was either totally eliminated or substantially shortened. Perhaps the most beautiful piece of music in this entire ballet is the Entr'acte at the end of Scene 1 of Act II. It is a rhapsody for violin and orchestra that is simply mesmerizing. There have been many live performances during which the audience broke into applause for the orchestra's violinist for his/her magnificent solo work. This Entr'acte is one of the many missing pieces in this DVD. If you will pardon my language, that is an abomination. The Royal Bellet, in this DVD eliminates not only this magnificent Entr'acte, but also the Marche at the beginning of Act III, a beautiful march that is a wonderful introduction to the wedding. I realize that there is no live performance of this ballet that contains absolutely all the music that Tchaikovsky wrote for it. Every ballet company from the Bolshoi and Kirov to local companies eliminate or shorten some of the dances. But this Royal Ballet production has gone further than one would expect from such a world-renowned ballet company. My favorite recording of this marvelous ballet would probably be the Bolshoi recording with Nina Semizorova as Aurora and a fantastic Yuri Vetrov as Carabosse (I would probably prefer the Altynai Aslymuratova performance with the Kirov Ballet, but that has not yet been released on DVD. Besides the marvelous dancing, this version has more of Tchaikovsky's music than any DVD or VHS that I have seen.). She is not the most beautiful looking of ballerinas, but that does not detract from her dancing. As to Yuri Vetrov (see also my review of "The Nutcracker" in which he plays Drosselmeyer), I have never seen a Carabosse that comes even close to his interpretation. Watching him is worth the price of the DVD by itself. The ballerina playing Carabosse in this Royal Ballet DVD comes across to me as a mean prankster. Yuri Vetrov projects evil personified. However, that version also eliminates the Entr'acte previously mentioned and, also, the Marche at the beginning of Act III. More than one reviewer has stated that a woman is better suited to the role of Carabosse than a man. Neither position is right or wrong. It is simply a matter of opinion. You will notice, however, that a man usually plays the role of Widow Simone in "La Fille Mal Gardee," and men play the parts of the two step-sisters in Frederick Ashton's version of "Cinderella." It is my opinion, and I emphasize that this is an opinion, that a man adds something to these roles that a woman cannot. Take your choice. Form your own opinion. I give this DVD two stars which represent the fact that the picture quality, the sets and costumes, and the music that this production does in fact contain are wonderful. I hope that my editing has made this review a little more useful to you."
It's Worth Having
CWJ | Owings Mills, MD United States | 11/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I thought a lot before I bought this production. I actually saw it live at the Kennedy Center during the summer before this was recorded and I was so disappointed. I had waited so long to see the Royal Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty live. I ought to say here I'm one of probably a few who actually like the Anthony Dowell 1993 production. I think Viviana Durante was amazing and Dowell himself as Carabosse gave the performance of the ages. I wasn't that nuts about the scenery but thought the costumes (especially those in Act 3) were great. I think the company was just having an off day when I saw the live production. It was a very hot summer day and, to be kind, maybe the heat and humidity was getting to them all. The whole group lacked energy, Sarah Lamb was uninspiring as Aurora. There was nothing between her and her Prince and the Elizabeth McGorian's Carabosse (she normally plays the Queen) looked and acted like she was a little annoyed because she hadn't been invited to a tea party. Though I suspect Durante with her steely toed performance is much more comparable to Fonteyn, I like this performance and Cojocaru a lot. In fact I like the whole cast a lot and Sarah Lamb is very good as Blue Bird. Cuts in the music don't disturb me too much since almost all the companies take liberties in that area. Like one of the other reviewers I'm also a fan of the Kirov version with Asylmuratova (and her husband Zaklinsky) but it was recorded at the Bolshoi Theatre and is so dark in places. (Have others noticed that this is often the case with performances recorded at the Bolshoi?) So far it is only on VHS and I've wondered if it will ever come out on DVD because of the quality of the recording. Anyway, for Sleeping Beauty fans it's well worth having. Since so little of the original production is available today (Act 3 on the "Evening With The Royal Ballet" DVD, a severely cut black and white version filmed for American TV and bits on the Margot DVD) this is the best chance to get an idea of what the original was like. "
The Sleeping Beauty
L. Goon | Plantation, FL United States | 10/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have always been a great fan of Alina Cojacaru. So right when this DVD came out I had to buy it. Alina and Frederico were great as Aurora and Prince Desiree. A perfect match and technique, beautiful and handsome, great as always. The Rose Adagio was just so charming and graceful. Everything was perfect except for one thing. The film was taken like you were sitting all the way in the back row and could not see their facial expression, which is important as well so that you can have the feeling of you being there with them. It was so small and I had to squint just to see them at times. However, the DVD is still worth buying and adding to your collection, especially if you are a fan of Alina and Frederico. The Royal Ballet will never disappoint you."
Blame the conductor
Jack 1951 | Australia | 10/12/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Not being able to get to London, I was very much looking forward to this DVD. It seems to me that the production is always on the verge of being terrific but never quite gets there, certainly not on this evidence. The text is beautifully presented, the performances are always good, sometimes (Cojocaru, Bonelli, Lamb, Morera)outstanding, the famous sets as seen in so many photographs seem beautifully re-created. So why do I feel disappointed? I think the main reason is in the musical direction - it's often too slow. Where the music should generate excitement, the tempi are often leisurely; in the middle of a good fast tempo, the conductor will suddenly put the brakes on for a gently-shaded sequence, and then pick up speed again. I believe this tendency, In Act 1, goes against Cojocaru creating a sparkling Aurora. The Rose Adagio, ensuing solo and exultant coda are all taken at moderate pace, so much so that the dancer clearly has time on her hands and adds extra pirouettes or little affectations of the head and hands which serve to weaken the general impression. In the diagonal coda, she has time to pose in the jump sequence before taking off again, when the impression should be of a whirlwind of happy movement. The Messel sets look severely underlit, and the costumes by Peter Farmer are a symphony of let's-not-offend-anyone pastels. Can't fault the DVD direction, though, it's beautifully done."