Wednesday, March 19, 2014

LA BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT (The Sleeping Beauty)


Palace Cinema, Canberra, March 14,15,16,19.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Because of his huge renown as an outstanding dancer, it is often overlooked that Rudolf Nureyev was also a very fine choreographer with a passion for preserving the great ballet masterpieces. Throughout his career he staged productions of many ballet classics for ballet companies around the world, including “Don Quixote” for the Australian Ballet.

In 1989 he staged a production of “La Belle au Bois Dormant” for the Paris Opera Ballet which is featured in the current series of filmed opera and ballet performances being screened at the Palace Cinema in Canberra.

This performance was filmed at the Palais Garnier on December 16th and at that performance the role of Princess Aurora was danced by Myriam Ould Braham. Her Prince Desire was Mathias Heymann.

Myriam Ould Braham - Matthias Heymann

As you would expect, both were beautifully cast. Ould Braham looked every inch the serious faced 16 year old, nervous at having to select a partner from the four suitors on offer at the ball arranged by her parents, then radiant when she meets the prince of her dreams on awakening from a century-long nap - the inspiration for the ballet is the Charles Perrault tale but Walt Disney has made the story pretty famous too. Ould Braham is a wonderful dancer with beautiful extensions and a great line, superbly displayed by Nureyev’s choreography.

Mathias Heymann also looks and acts the perfect Prince Desire. Tall, dark and handsome, he is an accomplished, thoughtful partner as well as a virtuosic dancer.  Their grand pas de deux which climaxes the ballet is quite simply thrilling.

Myriam Ould Braham - Matthias Heymann
The many huge ensemble dances are superbly executed as are the soloist’s smaller ensemble dances and specialty pas de deux.

Nureyev has based his production on the original production staged at the Marinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg which was choreographed by Marius Petipa to Tchaikovsky’s ravishing score. He has used as much of Petipa’s original choreography as he could remember, which he has modified and expanded, to meet his particular conception of the piece. The result is an eye-popping extravaganza which provides an almost overwhelming feast for both the eyes and ears.

The lavish sets and costumes are the work of Ezio Frigerio and Francesca Squarciapino and they look quite marvellous on the massive stage of the Palais Garnier.

The high definition film print is remarkably clear, and the sound throughout was magnificent. It was just a little disappointing and disconcerting therefore when the operator at this particular showing turned on the house lights before the film had ended, washing away some of the magic. 
One now looks forward to comparing the Royal Ballet's version  of this same ballet which screens at the Palace Cinemas on April 18,19,20 and 23. 

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