Monday, 25 January 2010

Sleeping Beauty at the ROH

Tamara Rojo

Went to see SLEEPING BEAUTY at the ROH on Saturday (after queuing in the freezing cold). Apart from the gorgeous Tamara Rojo it was a rather underwhelming evening. Chiefly responsible for this was the prehistoric designs which are marginally updated versions of Oliver Messel's Sadlers Wells designs. I cannot for the life of me imagine who thought that these would work on the vast expanses of the Opera House stage or be acceptable to modern audiences used to huge elaborate sets. They must have looked conventional even just after the war - Nowadays I would have to say I have seen better panto sets than this.
The sense of postwar skimp extended to the costumes which often appeared drab and ordinary.
The other reason for complaint was the very ordinary conducting with many of the moments in Tchaikovsky's matchless score going for nothing. Also several key points which should sync perfectly with dance moves were missed. Worst of these was the chord which should match the pirouette into arabesque in the Grand Pas before the slow arabesque penchee.
The first Carabosse scene was fatally reduced in impact by the conducting. I actually missed the "she shall die" moment as I was so unengaged. Gillian Revie was actually quite good as Carabosse (although I prefer a man in drag in this part) but her strange costume (More Carry on Screaming or 60's fringe party than Evil Fairy) did her no favours.
The transformation scene at the close of Act continued the cheap theme with a few featureless cutcloths tracking in. By this point I was praying for the return of the much maligned Dowell/Bjornson production.
The dancing was all to a good standard but without much individual stamp being put on the roles. The wonderful sequence of Fairy variations passed without remark. Even the grand variation for the Lilac Fairy (which has the potential to thrill) aroused little excitement in me (or the remainder of the audience)
Rupert Pennefather was a good Prince without ever making more of the role than that. Admittedly the production gives him no help in this. The crucial confrontation bewtween good and evil near the climax of Act 2 goes for nothing in this version as there is no sense that the result could go either way.
So the one shining light of the evening was Tamaro Rojo's Aurora. She surmounts every mountainous challenge of this role with apparent ease. She pirouettes on point better than most men do on flat - I think the last pirouette in the diagonal section of the Act 1 variation was a Quintuple turn! If only she had had a better frame in which to shine. The sooner this production is junked the better!

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