|| Patriot Ledger
|| March 25, 2013
|| Iris Fanger
The Boston Ballet celebrates the coming of spring with a revival of its highly successful version of "The Sleeping Beauty," presented at the Opera House for the first time. The ballet is based on the Royal Ballet production, mounted here in a pristine repeat of the rigor and discipline of the British staging.
The entire company looked assured and well rehearsed on opening night, and at the next day's matinee when different dancers took on the leading roles. Set to the glorious score by Tchaikovsky, beautifully performed by the Boston Ballet orchestra, the 1890 ballet by Marius Petipa remains a glittering legacy from Imperial Russia.
Princess Aurora is introduced to the audience in her cradle in the prologue, when her family runs afoul of the wicked fairy Carabosse, who was left off the invitation list for the christening. The prologue holds a mirror up to the pomp of royalty. The story begins in the period of Louis XIV, when courtiers wore long, curling wigs and extravagant waistcoats, and women wore jewel-encrusted gowns. They traverse the stage in grand processions, alternating with delicate dances for the fairies bringing gifts to the child.
But the mood changes quickly when Carabosse enters to take her revenge. Waving her arms in fits of anger, she scoots around the stage in her carriage, drawn by a quartet of big-eared dwarves who would fit perfectly into the next film episode of "The Hobbit." Erica Cornejo, usually a sedate, well mannered ballerina, came to animated life as Carabosse on opening night; at Saturday's matinee, long-time male principal dancer Yury Yanowsky gave a cross-dressing portrayal that was darker but equally engrossing.
Of course, the focus is on the ballerina cast as Aurora, to watch her emerge from a teen-ager discovering the love of Prince Desiree after 100 years have passed. At opening night, Misa Kuranaga, was as perfect a Princess as one could imagine. In the legendary balances of the "Rose" adagio at her 16th birthday party, she was rock-steady on her pointes - a tiny girl on the cusp of womanhood, in contrast to the four tall and handsome Princes who came to woo her. Braintree's Sabi Varga portrayed the French Prince, who was also her chief partner in Act I.
Later, in the dream scene of Act II, when the Lilac Fairy allows the Prince a teasing glimpse of her, Kuranaga moved as if walking in her sleep. At the end of Act II, Aurora is wakened by the kiss, to take her place as rightful heir to the kingdom and consort to her Prince.
Jeffrey Cirio at age 21 is now the reigning male dancer of the company. Impressive in the technical demands of Prince Desiree, he never fails to land in a turned-out fifth position, no matter how high he jumps. He is also a skilled actor, adding a level of realism to the love story. He is well matched with Kuranaga who exuded the amazed excitement of a young girl reveling at her coming of age. At Saturday's matinee, soloist Ashley Ellis made her debut as Princess Aurora, partnered by Nelson Madrigal. Ellis was generally well up to the many solos and pas de deux of the role, and Madrigal made easy work of the high leaps and linked turns, but the pair shares little stage chemistry.
The Lilac Fairy, who makes the fairy-tale ending come true, was performed by Lia Cirio on opening night. She seemed to glide on air as she master-minded the story. Kathleen Breen Combes was equally convincing in the role the next afternoon.
An advantage of the company's nearly 50 year history is the longevity of some still working at the company, but no longer performing. Arthur Leeth and Elizabeth Olds as the King and Queen, and Gino DiMarco as the foolish courtier, Catalabutte, bring authority and a welcome sense of a varied community to the assemblage on stage. Children from the school appear as pages, but one might wish them woven into the lovely patterns of the Garland Dance of Act I, as in earlier productions. The wedding epilogue, coached by Hilary Cartwright, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet, was also cut, which made a more satisfying ending to the three-hour long ballet. David Walker's 1977 sets and costumes, purchased from the Royal Ballet in the 1990s, are now looking a bit musty and heavy. Surely some refurbishing is due them, if not the expense of an entire new wardrobe.