Monday, September 18, 2023

SLEEPING BEAUTY - Royal Czech Ballet


Cristina Terentiev - Yevhen Svyetlitsa in the Royal Czech Ballet's production of "Sleeping Beauty"

Music by Pyotr Ilyic Tchaikovsky

Choreographed and staging by Andrei Scharaev, after Marius Petipa

Settings by Evgeny Hurenko – Costumes by Maria Poliudova

Lighting by Alexander Soloviev – Sound by Sarah Vandenberg

Canberra Theatre Centre – September 18th & 19th 2023.

Evening performance on 18th September reviewed by BILL STEPHENS


Dancers of the Royal Czech Ballet in "Sleeping Beauty"

Premiered in the Marinsky Theatre in 1890, “The Sleeping Beauty” has remained one of the most famous of all ballets. The ballet is based around a fairy-tale princess who is cursed by an evil fairy miffed at not being invited to the princess’s christening. The effect of the evil fairy’s curse is that the princess will die if she pricks her finger, which of course she does at her 16th birthday celebrations.

This event causes the whole court to go into suspended animation until 100 years later, when a handsome prince discovers the Royal Court, dutifully kisses the princess, resulting in everyone waking up to celebrate with a grand party for which various other fairy-tale characters provide the floor show.

With its famous score by Tchaikovsky, the opportunities the ballet offers for pretty settings,  costumes, and characters dances to showcase its dancers, “Sleeping Beauty” has become a staple in the repertoire of most classical ballet companies. This lovely production by the Royal Czech Ballet is an excellent example of why.

Staged by the company’s Founder and Artistic Director, Andrei Scharaev, this production is presented among a series of spectacular, beautifully painted backcloths, the work of Evgeny Hurenko, with pretty jelly-bean coloured costumes by Maria Poliudova.

Sensitive to the rigours of an extensive touring schedule, Scharaev has sensitively modified the original Petipa choreography, without sacrificing style, precision or spectacle. All 26 or so well-drilled dancers who make up the company impressed with their immaculate grooming and attention to choreographic detail.

Cristina Terentiev - Yevhan Svyelitsa - Dancers of the Royal Czech in "Sleeping Beauty

The company is led by ballerina, Cristina Terentiev as Princess Aurora, partnered by Yevhen Svyetlitsa as Prince Desire. Every inch the Prima Ballerina, Terentiev, last seen in Canberra in Royal Czech Ballet’s “Swan Lake”, is an exquisite dancer and sheer joy to watch. She effortlessly captures the joie de vivre of the sixteen-year-old Princess Aurora, while taking the time to execute every step faultlessly and with flawless line.

Her partner, Yevhen Svyetlitsa, a handsome, attentive Prince Desire, also impressed with his princely bearing and effortless elevation. Their execution of the famous last act pas de deux elicited cheers from the entranced audience. 

Serjei Iliin (Carabosse) and dancers of the Royal Czech Ballet in "Sleeping Beauty"

Among the soloists, Ana Oleinic watched over proceedings as a tall and elegant Lilac Fairy, Sergej Iliin, in an amazing glittering black and gold costume,  oozed evil intent as the Evil Fairy Carabosse; Ola Marcova and Vadim Stetenco delighted with their performance of the famous Blue Bird Pas de deux;  Andrei Saharnean and Elizaveta Savina drew laughter from the audience with their outrageous flirting as Puss in Boots and the White Cat;  while diminutive, Nicole Ferazzino, who had charmed earlier as Fairy Playfulness,  had her hands full avoiding the clutches Dennis Donica’s Grey Wolf, as Little Red Riding Hood.

Elizaveta Savina (White Cat) - Andrei Saharnean (Puss in Boots" in "Sleeping Beauty"

Thankfully the recorded version of the much-loved Tchaikovsky score was amplified to just the right level making this production both an aural and visual delight.

As the Royal Czech Ballet continues its Australian tour, for performances from 4th to the 30th October, Ukrainian dancer, Natalia Kushch, who has previously been a soloist with the Vienna State Ballet, the Queensland Ballet and Australian Ballet, will take over the role of Princess Aurora from Cristina Terentiev. Kushch will be partnered for these performances by Nikolay Nazarkevich.

                                     Images provided by Royal Czech Ballet.

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.