A beauteous Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty, Music by Tchaikovsky, The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre, Ipswich, Sunday 2 March 2008

The Sleeping Beauty, Music by Tchaikovsky, The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre, Ipswich, Sunday 2 March 2008

The exceptionally talented dancers and musicians from the heart of Siberia ended their run of ballet performances at the Ipswich Regent with their attractive version of The Sleeping Beauty. It didn't quite rise to the heights of their sell-out performance of Swan Lake on Friday, but it's not an easy ballet for any company to pull off.

Intended by the directors of the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg as a tribute to the opulence and grandeur of the Tsarist court, the first production had monumental scenery and a cast of hundreds, all lavishly attired. And even then Tsar Alexander III wasn't all that impressed at the premiere. "Very nice" he told composer Tchaikovsky, damning with faint praise - but then he had sat through four hours of it.

All modern productions have to make cuts, otherwise audiences would be agreeing with Tsar Alex, and Artistic Director Sergei Bobrov has made a virtue of necessity, presenting us with a slimmed down version which still preserves the essence of this 19th Century classic. Sleeping Beauty Lite it may be, but it's well danced, the story is neatly told, and the designers have provided some resplendent costumes which stand out in sharp, multi-coloured contrast to the pastel picture book backdrops.

It took a little time for the dancers to find their form on Sunday evening, understandable considering this was their sixth performance in three days, but things warmed up once a glowering Demid Zykov burst onto the stage as the vengeful wicked fairy Carabosse.

Pretty Anna Aulle, as Princess Aurora, was a delight from her first pirouettes onwards, although she played it rather safe in the Rose Adagio.

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Alexander Butrimovich, as her long-awaited Prince, is a very fine dancer indeed, with a high leap and soft landings. As a couple, they were perfectly matched, their Wedding Grand Pas de Deux a real highlight, with especially radiant dancing from Aulle.

Among the wedding guests were interlopers from other fairy tales all giving their party pieces and Denis Pogorely and Olesya Aldonina were great fun as an amorous Puss-in-Boots and his playing-hard-to-get White Cat. Ivan Karnaukov soared as the enchanted Bluebird.

A pity, though, that the musical cuts meant we lost the Panorama, the gently rippling melody that depicts the Prince's boat-ride to Sleeping Beauty's castle. But we did get the beautiful, and seldom heard, Act 2 Entr'acte to accompany the Vision Scene duet - superlative playing here, again, from solo violinist Antonia Rogatkina.

A pity, too, was the odd lack of furniture in King Florestan's palace. Poor Princess Aurora had to go through her christening party with no cradle, and worse still, endure her 100 years sleep without a proper bed. Fortunately an obliging quartet of princes were on hand to offer their combined knees - the same foursome who had tried to woo her with roses earlier in the Rose Adagio. It can't have been a particularly comfortable century for any of them.

Maybe it was down to royal household economies, but I suspect the true culprit was the lack of space on the Regent stage. The auditorium looks fabulous now, thank you Ipswich Borough Council, but please can the next project be to extend the stage?

The weekend of performances has been something of a triumph for the Siberians. If you missed them this year, look out for their return next Spring.

James Hayward

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