It is a challenging task for any director to take on one of the world’s most beloved and enduring ballets, even more so to imbue it with new life and a fresh vision, but this is what Artistic Director David McAllister has done with his enchanting, elegant, and visually spectacular reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s 19th century masterpiece, The Sleeping Beauty.
This reboot of the classic has been years in the making for The Australian Ballet, and even longer in the imagination of David McAllister, whose enduring fascination with Sleeping Beauty was awakened in childhood after witnessing a performance of the ballet in Perth. And while it may not have come cheap (there’s a multi-million dollar price tag attached to the production) the money has been put to exceptional use, culminating in a lavish realisation of David McAllister’s unique vision.
The Crown Casino proved an excellent venue for the performance, and before the dancers even appeared on stage, it was clear that this was going to be an exceptional and highly-stylized production. In lieu of a curtain, an intricate painted backdrop set the scene for the soon-to-be unfolding drama, complete with alabaster columns and lavish detailing.
Bedecked in an outfit befitting a princess, Aurora (played by principal dancer Lana Jones) pirouetted her way through the first act, flanked by five glittering, energetic fairies (Amy Harris, Natasha Kusen, Robyn Hendricks, Benedicte Bemet and Miwako Kubota) whose colourful costumes and high-energy performances were a joy to watch.
The benevolent Lilac Fairy (danced with precision by Amber Scott) met her match in an elegantly menacing Carabosse (Lynette Wills). Swathed in dark black peacock feathers and accompanied by an entourage of grim-looking underlings, the figure of Carabosse bestowed the otherwise rosy scenes with some gravity, reminding us of the philosophical concepts of good and evil which underpin the classic tale.
While the technical facility of the dancers was admirable (in the course of meeting her sway of princely admirers, Lana Jones managed to hold a mind-bendingly difficult position for a lengthy period) the beauty of the production lies in its ability to immerse the viewer within the fairytale world itself, where magical creatures are real, and a kiss is capable of overcoming eternal slumber.
This is in large part due to the genius of Costume and Set Designer Gabriela Tylesova, whose Baroque-inspired designs populated the stage, from bejewelled, haute couture dresses, to glittering chandeliers and rose-strewn floors.
The music which is so integral to The Sleeping Beauty, and which at every turn seems to reflect both character and plot development, has been carefully pruned back by Musical Director Nicolette Fraillon, who has managed to whittle Tchaikovsky’s almost four hour score down to closer to two without upsetting the delicate synchronicity between music and dance.
With a talented group of dancers, stunning costume and set design and an iconic score masterfully executed by WASO, Sleeping Beauty is a feast for the senses and a must-see for Perth ballet lovers.
The Australian Ballet presents
The Sleeping Beauty
Choreography Marius Petipa
Production and additional choreography David McAllister
Venue: Crown Casino, Perth
Dates: 7 – 10 October 2015