Above: A fistful of fabulous fairies. Right: Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo execute a perfect fish dive; Photo: Kate Longley
Australia Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty
Choreography by Marius Petipa
Production and additional choreography by David McAllister
Music by Tchaikovsky
Musical Director Nicolette Fraillon
Costume and set design Gabriella Tylesova
Lighting Design Jon Buswell
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: February 24-March 4. Running time two hours 50 minutes with two 20 minute intervals. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or telephone 136 246
The show I saw was the 46th performance of David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty. I was expecting a lot because of all the praise that has been heaped on the ballet – and I got a lot!
Every accolade proved to be true. It is the most sumptuous ballet; it has the most opulent set and the most elegant costumes. It is mind bogglingly beautiful to watch – and then there are the dancers who showed why the Australian Ballet is considered one of the best in the world. They were sensational.
Critics said there has never been a ballet like it and we are never likely to see one as marvellous again. I agree. It is rumoured that it cost $3 million to mount, and it looks like it.
The setting was 17th century France in a palace inspired by Versailles, but it was much lusher than the French chateau so loved by Louis X1V. It was a much warmer looking place too with soft pastel shades mixing with gold and cream and bright reds.
The tutus of the fairies and nymphs were out of this world for sheer beauty and design. It was simply a show just to sit and absorb visually and be stunned by it all.
Complimenting it all was the Queensland Symphony Orchestra matching Tchaikovsky’s music to Petipa’s magical choreography.
The story follows the fairytale: the princess is born and at her christening is endowed with gifts from the fairies and cursed by the bad fairy Carabosse (Gillian Revie) with death from a spindle prick when she is 16; The Lilac Fairy commutes the death sentence to a long sleep and foretells that Aurora will eventually awake to true love by a kiss from the Prince and then to live happily ever after.
Princess Aurora was danced by Principal Dancer Ako Kondo and Prince Desiré by Principal Chengwu Guo, two faultless dancers with impeccable technique and perfect line who matched either to create a breathtaking grand pas de deux at the wedding Chengwu Guo has amazing agility and balance and Ako Condo’s remarkable strength en pointe was vividly illustrated as she greeted her four suitors – twice.
Nicola Curry was an impressive Lilac Fairy and, with her fellow fairies, Amanda McGuigan as Joy, Jasmin Durham as Grace, Rina Nemoto as Generosity, Sarah Thompson as Musicality and Karen Nanasca as Temperament, performed several joyful and intricate dance routines.
It was a neat twist to introduce fairytale characters Puss in Boots, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Cinderella and her prince as well as the Bluebirds to the wedding party; it added extra fun.
There were a few moments of imperfection with company dancers missing steps and a few bad lines; the flower garland dance in Act 1 was a bit messy too, but it didn’t really matter because the mind-blowing spectacle was always in evidence and grew as the ballet progressed – who could forget the trio of huge chandeliers that rose to the roof – it was a bling, bling and more bling ending with a shower of golden foil and a sun king emblem dominating the rear of the stage.
Audiences, like me, will have visual memories that will remain for a long time,