American Ballet Theatre;  Sleeping Beauty

June 17, 2010

American Ballet Theatre’s performance of Sleeping Beauty, while far from perfect, was a charming escape from reality for a summer evening.

Sleeping Beauty is the sweetest of the big story ballets, with a beautiful princess, a handsome prince and a happy ending.  The delightful Tchaikovsky score was well played by the ABT orchestra under the expert conducting of David LaMarche.

The ballet opens with the christening of the Princess Aurora, which turns to disaster when the evil fairy Carabosse arrives and decrees that the Princess will die at sixteen.   Martine van Hamel was a dramatic Carabosse and her performance was enhanced by the spectacular special effects announcing her arrival and departure.   Maria Riccetto, as the Lilac Fairy who reduces Carabosse’s evil spell, danced with great delicacy. 

The ballet then fast-forwards to Princess Aurora’s sixteenth birthday.  Four princes have arrived to ask for her hand in marriage.  Paloma Herrera was imperious as the Princess Aurora, but she never showed the excitement and naïveté of a sixteen-year old girl.  As predicted, the Princess pricks her finger on a spindle and collapses.  The act ends with the Lilac Fairy casting a spell of sleep over the castle and its inhabitants.

In the next act, a hundred years have gone by and the prince who is to rescue Aurora enters.  We were fortunate to see David Hallberg, a tall, attractive dancer, in the role.  He has great stage presence and has mastered the art of seeming to stay in the air at the top of his jumps.  Maria Riccetto, who as the Lilac Fairy draws the prince to the enchanted castle, and Martine van Hamel who as Carabosse tries to prevent her, were again excellent in their roles.  Of course, the prince wins through and awakens Aurora with a kiss.  

The ballet ends with the wedding celebration and the opportunity for some virtuoso dancing.  Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews were excellent as Princess Florine and the Bluebird.  David Hallberg and Paloma Herrera entertained in the Grand Pas de Deux, but Ms. Herrera’s balance was sometimes a little off and there was no chemistry between them.

The ballet featured over-elaborate sets, more suggestive of Disneyland than Fairyland – a frequent fault of ABT.  However, the costumes were attractive and well varied to show the different historical eras.

– reviewed by Sandra Prosnitz and Adie Gibbs