Let the celebrations begin - in style

SLEEPING BEAUTY: Nao Sakuma as Princess Aurora and Chi Cao as Prince Florimund - and below.

 Photos - Bill Cooper

Sleeping Beauty

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome

***** 

BIRMINGHAM Royal Ballet opened its 20th Anniversary celebrations last night and and anyone watching was left in no doubt that this was as much a celebration for the city and the Hippodrome as the company with its stunning performance of Sleeping Beauty.

When the Saddler's Wells Royal Ballet loaded its pointe shoes and tutus in the back of the van and set off up the M1 to become the Birmingham Royal Ballet it was a journey into the unknown for all parties.

Two decades on and it is safe to to say the move has been a spectacular success for everyone concerned and Tchaikovsky's ballet was a fitting way to start the celebrations.

As soon as the curtains opened the tone was set for an evening of right royal celebrations. The sets, designed by Philip Prowse, were all magnificent opulence, making the likes of Versailles look positively dowdy, while into the fabulous setting came a cast in rich, sumptuous, costumes all to the familiar music from the excellent Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy. A clap too for some impressive lighting from Mark Jonathan.

Lighting is usually only noticed when it goes wrong but good lighting is as important to a piece as sets or costume and helps set the scene for the dancers.

The cast. from the fussy Catalabutte, David Morse, to the coquettish White Cat, Sonia Aguilar, all played their parts with style but this ballet depends largely upon two couples as to whether it is truly memorable or not and in Nao Sakuma as Princess Auroa and Chi Cao as Prince Florimund, and Joseph Caley as The Bluebird with Momoko Hirata as the Enchanted Princess, memorable success was in safe hands . . . or in this case feet.

GOOD ENGINE

Joseph Caley, in particular, showed, in footballing terms, what a good engine he has got with some physically demanding solo dances that would require a cardiac arrest unit standing by if they were attempted by mere mortals.

Chi Cao has elegance and skill to spare while the two Japanese dancers Noa Sakuma and Momoko Hirata are a thing of beauty to behold. Their balance and speed of foot is remarkable.

The ballet, incidentally, celebrated its 120th anniversary earlier this year and Sir Peter Wright's production is based firmly on the original choreography by Marius Petipa, the ballet master of the Imperial Ballet, from that opening night in St Petersburg.

The story is simple. King Florestan XXIV is holding a big Christening ceremony for his new daughter Aurora and invites six fairies - luckily including the Lilac fairy,  Andrea Tredinnick, who has a better class of spells than the rest.

Unfortunately the old king doesn't invite Carabosse, the local wicked fairy which, in hindsight, is a bit of a blunder and Marion Tait as the evil one is not going to let him forget it hamming it up beautifully with her entourage of six, black-garbed halloweenies.

PASSING PRINCE

She casts a spell that Aurora will prick her finger and die and you just know that is what is going to happen otherwise it is going to be a pretty short ballet. So when the princess does the deadly deed the Lilac Fairy changes the spell so that instead of dying she, and everyone else in the palace, will sleep for 100 years with the princess then to be awakened by the kiss of a passing prince.

Right on cue up pops the puckered-up prince ready to wake everyone up for a big party and almost three hours later we all go home.

It is a classic tale  but in the hands of BRB it is given the freshness and sparkle that the company's productions have time and again created to enhance the name of the city and to brighten the life of Birmingham. A fabulous celebration and, twenty years on, thank you for coming. Hope you can stay.

The production runs until 06-03-10 and then again from 11-03-10 to 13-03-10 with the BRB's 20 Years Celebration concert on 09-03-10 and 10-03-10. 

Roger Clarke

 

Second opinion, Doctor?

  

*****

THIS is the 20th anniversary of the BRB's move to Birmingham, and Sir Peter Wright's masterpiece of a production is proving a wonderful way to get the celebrations started.

The former Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet tell the classic story of The Sleeping Beauty with all the style, invention and imagination we have come to almost take for granted, and at times the visual impact is breathtaking.

 Right from the opening scenes the audience realise they and witnessing something special because the exquisitely designed costumes are stunning, colours blending perfectly with the awesome scenery as the story begins to unfold in the castle of King Florestan and his Queen who are celebrating the Christening of Princess Aurora.

 And of course the dancing, choreographed by Marius Petipa to the music of Tchaikovsky. A sheer delight, with Nao Sakuma a magnificent Princess and Chi Cao proving the perfect partner in the role of Prince Florimund whose kiss awakens Aurora from a hundred year sleep following a curse from the evil Fairy Carabosse.

Marion Tait creates a genuine atmosphere of evil as Carabosse, backed by her nasty black-clad henchmen with their chalk white faces, resembling a poisonous posse from the Pirates of the Caribbean.

 A fine performance, too, from Andrea Tredinnick, the good Lilac Fairy who tempers Carabosse's sentence of death curse to one of a century of sleep after Aurora pricks her finger on a spindle.

Paul Marston 

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