Review: Sleeping Beauty took too long to wake up

The Sleeping Beauty, Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre, Ipswich, February 27

THE Russian State Ballet of Siberia does a wonderful job bringing good quality classical dance to UK theatres that these days are shunned by our big national companies. An over-priced cinema ticket to see a broadcast to a local multiplex is no substitute for the real thing, so hats off to the Russians and to promoter Raymond Gubbay for bringing live full-length ballet to the provinces. On last night’s showing, I only question whether The Sleeping Beauty is the ideal choice for a touring production.

Beauty is a challenge for any ballet company. In its original concept it demands spectacular sets, a cast of hundreds, and dancing of the highest standard at every level. Given the limited resources available, the Siberian Ballet’s production is inevitably a slimmed down version. The last time they brought it to the Regent a few years ago, I described it as Sleeping Beauty-lite, but it still managed an acceptable level of sparkle. On Sunday night, unfortunately, the fizz was pretty much missing.

This Beauty really did take a long time to wake up – in fact, it didn’t really take flight until the second act, when Arkady Zinov, as Prince Desir�, leapt onto the stage and added some much needed energy.

The lacklustre setting didn’t help, with a badly draped and faded backcloth permanently in place, there wasn’t much of a feast for the eyes – surely the budget could have at least stretched to a bed for the Princess to sleep on?

Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score is a masterpiece, but long, so cuts are a necessity in any production, but that didn’t really justify the rather brutal pruning of a large part of the Rose Adagio (the ballet’s major set-piece) and the loss of the beautiful “Panorama” interlude that depicts the Prince’s journey to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. A pity, because, the music was reasonably well played by the Krasnoyarsk Orchestra.

Shortcomings in staging can be more easily overlooked if the dancing from the leads is really outstanding. Small and dark, Ekaterina Bulgutova made an attractive Princess Aurora – very believable as a 16 year old. But this is one of the most technically demanding ballerina roles in the whole classical repertoire, and Bulgutova struggled a little in her solos. She was much happier when supported by her elegant Prince, but even their final Grand Pas de Deux in the “Wedding” scene, which should be the ballet’s climax, failed to strike many sparks. It was left to Ivan Karnaukhov and Natalia Goroshko as the Bluebirds to bring a theatrical vitality and style that was sadly lacking from much of the rest of the evening.

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