REVIEW: The Sleeping Beauty (English National Ballet) at Empire Theatre, 3 Nov 2012

The Sleeping Beauty is both a technically and phsically demanding ballet and Saturday’s performance by the English National Ballet was a truly spellbinding visual and musical feast. The fairytale narrative is played out on a scale that features the whole Company and is choreographed in a more stylistically traditional way by Sir Kenneth MacMillan (after Marius Petipa). Luke Moore reviews…


Beginning with a joyous scene of celebration held by King Florestan and his Queen for the christening of their daughter, Princess Aurora, the festivities are interrupted by James Streeter’s excellently portrayed Carabosse, a wicked fairy, angry at not having been invited to the ceremony. As revenge, she curses the newborn princess to one day pricking her finger and dying. The Lilac Fairy is able to limit the curse to one where instead of dying, Aurora will sleep until awakened by a prince’s kiss. 

Fast forward a hundred years and Prince Désiré is hunting and is presented by the Lilac Fairy with a vision of the sleeping Princess Aurora. They travel together to the palace where the prince wakes Aurora with a kiss, breaking the spell and causing Carabosse and her evil attendants to disappear. The final act is the happy couple’s wedding celebration, featuring appearances from fairytale characters such as Puss in Boots and the White Cat, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. The ballet finishes with the Lilac Fairy giving the marriage her blessing.

From the prologue through to the end of the third and final act, the quality of the performances was almost flawless throughout. The company’s Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo, was particularly outstanding as Aurora whilst Daria Klimentová’s Lilac Fairy was similarly able to entrance the audience. For me, the exceptionally playful performances of Venus Villa and Juan Rodriguez as Puss in Boots and the White Cat respectively were a welcome change of feel next to the Bluebird pas de deux in what can feel like an overly long third act. Having seen the ENB’s production of this ballet back in 2008, my only (and indeed very small) reservation was that Vadim Muntagirov as Prince Désiré felt a little short of Dmitri Gruzdyev’s performance in the same role before him. 

With such an amazing all round cast, a tight musical performance under the baton of Gavin Sutherland and impressive costume and set design, this production is perfect for anyone that wants to go and watch a great ballet, whether for the first time or the hundredth.


Words by Luke Moore


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