The Birmingham Royal Ballet returned to Birmingham this week with a spellbinding performance of Sleeping Beauty. Transforming the Birmingham Hippodrome stage into a Georgian setting fit for royalty, the dancers of the BRB created a magical and enthralling fairytale that had just the right amount of spice.
We all know the story of the Princess Aurora, gifted every one of life’s advantages by a stream of beautiful fairies. This was represented in a series of solo dances representing modesty, honour, joy, and, of course, beauty. The mood is bright and beautiful, full of sparkle and light. Unfortunately, no one invited the dark Fairy, Carabosse, and so she invites herself along, determined to destroy the occasion by placing a death sentence on the infant Princess. The moment that Carabosse entered, as played by the immortal Marion Tait, is one that will live in the memory for a long time. She is a remarkable presence, truly frightening in her manner, stance and exquisite black costume. Carried aloft by her bat-like attendants and accompanied by a roll of thunder, Carabosse is the embodiment of fairytale evil, bearing a striking resemblance to the evil Queen who tried to finish off Snow White. I must admit, I loved her. It’s a bit of a paradox, but her dark blend of charisma lit up the stage every time she appeared.
But the evil of Carabosse had an exquisite counterpoint in the Lilac Fairy. Jenna Roberts plays this beautiful enigma, the fairy who had yet to deliver her gift, which turns out to be the gift of life. The Lilac fairy looks so perfect, think Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, and dances with such lightness and elegance that you could not fail to be enchanted.
The second act introduces a grown up Aurora, one with suitors, who pirouette the Princess around like a ballerina in a jewel box during the famous Rose Adagio. Aurora is Nao Sakuma, who is everything the role requires. Tiny and beautiful and so charming in her movements and expressions, Sakuma invests her character with joy and grace, she is simply a joy to watch. The spindle is not attached to a spinning wheel, but hidden in flowers, a neat touch which means all the palace get to see the Princess fall into her deep sleep. It is at this point that the amazing scenery really comes into its own, with layer upon layer of flora and fauna helping to hide and protect the enchanted palace.
Chi Cao is the Prince who comes to the rescue of the Sleeping Beauty, transfixed by the vision conjured up by the Lilac Fairy. Cao is athletic and virile in the role of the handsome Prince, and his solo dances were perfect. His rescue of the Princess through the power of his kiss set us up for an unforgettable finale, one that shimmered and sparkled in a way that left the audience gasping at its sheer beauty.
This classic Peter Wright production continues to enchant new generations. The music of Tchaikovsky continues to soar. All in all, perfection.