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American Ballet Theatre: The Sleeping Beauty 2010
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American Ballet Theatre: The Sleeping Beauty 2010

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American Ballet Theatre

The Sleeping Beauty 2010
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 17, 2010

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Conductor: David LaMarche
(See an Interview with David LaMarche on the Season’s Ballet Scores)

The Sleeping Beauty (2008): Choreography after Marius Petipa, Additional choreography and staging by Kevin McKenzie, Gelsey Kirkland, and Michael Chernov, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Scenery by Tony Walton, Costumes by Willa Kim, Additional Costume Design by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Richard Pilbrow and Dawn Chiang, Assistant Scenery Designer: Kelly Hanson, Assistant Costume Designer: Richard Schurkamp, Performed by Paloma Herrera as Princess Aurora, David Hallberg as Prince Désiré, Maria Riccetto as The Lilac Fairy, Martina Van Hamel as The Fairy Carabosse, Victor Barbee as King Florestan, Karen Uphoff as His Queen, Wes Chapman as Catalabutte, The King’s Chief Minister, Hee Seo as The Fairy of Sincerity, Kristi Boone as The Fairy of Fervor, Leann Underwood as The Fairy of Charity, Sarah Lane as The Fairy of Joy, Simone Messmer as The Fairy of Valor, Alexei Agoudine, Thomas Forster, Mikhail Ilyin, Sascha Radetsky, Luis Ribagorda, and Sean Stewart as The Fairy Knights, Vitali Krauchenka as The Russian Prince, Isaac Stappas as The Spanish Prince, Jared Matthews as The Indian Prince, Sascha Radetsky as The Celtic Prince, Jessica Saund as The Countess, Julio Bragado-Young as Gallison, The Prince’s Aide, Isabella Boylston and Mikhail Ilyin as The Cat and Puss-in-Boots, Mary Mills Thomas and Arron Scott as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, Maria Bystrova and Daniel Mantei as Cinderella and Prince Charming, Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews as Princess Florine and The Bluebird, and the Company as Herald, Lilac Fairy Attendants, Carabosse’s Minions, The Courtiers, Princess Aurora’s Friends, Village Gossips, The Villagers, The Prince’s Friends, The Hunt Couples, and Lindsay Karchin and Drew Nelson as The Village Children.

Everyone knows this renowned fairy tale ballet, that begins with Catalabutte’s accidentally leaving the evil Fairy Carabosse off the guest list for Princess Aurora’s Christening. When Carabosse arrives in anger, she’s accompanied by dancing spider-minions, and places a curse on Aurora that she’ll die on her sixteenth birthday, by pricking her finger on a spindle. The Lilac Fairy improves Aurora’s fate to a 100 year nap, in which the entire Kingdom will sleep as well, so her parents can join in her century-late wedding, with all the famous storybook characters invited. Toward the end of that century nap, the lonely and restless Prince Désiré sees a vision of Aurora’s palace, and the Lilac Fairy miraculously appears to bring him to meet and kiss Aurora, waking her up to marry him, which she does, with all the Fairies in attendance as well.

This 2007 version of the 1890 Marius Petipa ballet takes a few liberties from the familiar original, but the Tony Walton sets are so colorful and “fairy-tale like”, that I enjoy watching it every season. Paloma Herrera and David Hallberg were Aurora and Prince Désiré, and they are both dancing with virtuosic strength, developing each season into more gripping onstage personas. In past versions an intermission arrives before we meet Aurora on her sixteenth birthday, but here there’s just a pause, as this is a three-hour ballet with now just one intermission. Ms. Herrera rushed down the palace staircase and accomplished the requisite Rosa Adagio, that greets every Aurora with the daunting en pointe balancing challenge. Her four Princes, who walk her in circles, as she remains en pointe, over and over, even as she passes long stem roses to each, were Vitali Krauchenka, Isaac Stappas, Jared Matthews, and Sascha Radetsky. Of the four, Mr. Krauchenka was most stately and charismatic. Ms. Herrera danced the Adagio with confidence, poise, balance, and extra pauses en pointe, an audience-energizing moment.

Throughout the Act I Spell Scene (that followed the Christening Prologue), Ms. Herrera exuded a rare ingénue vulnerability mixed with a sense of yearning that transported her beyond the four suitors. Mr. Hallberg was introduced in the post-intermission Act II Hunt, Vision, Journey, and Awakening Scenes, during which he danced with Ms. Herrera as her own vision in the forest, within site of Aurora’s palace. This Vision Scene pas de deux was a highlight of the evening, with refreshing vitality and ebullient chemistry. Maria Riccetto was an effective Lilac Fairy, but she was a bit stiff and emotionally detached. This is the Fairy who’s the glue to seal Aurora and Désiré’s fate, and she could have warmed up in this role, even though she did master the woodland choreography with ease. The Awakening is another highlight, within this storybook setting, and that kiss brought audience sighs. After the Kingdom quickly dusts off, a pause is followed by the grand Act III Wedding Celebration, and Ms. Herrera and Mr. Hallberg’s pas de deux was breathtaking, after his daring leaps and her rapid spins and lifts into his arms. The extraordinary talent of these two principals carried the production with aplomb.

As The Fairy Carabosse, Martine Van Hamel, a retired company principal, was devilish and deliciously wicked, wreaking havoc as best she could. With her four “minions’, in the form of black-green, spidery creatures, she rode about in a cart on wheels, with puffs of smoke and fire exploding in her wake. Ms. Van Hamel remains an enormous presence onstage in the Company’s repertory, often taking on witty, regal, or demonic stage roles. She’s daringly dynamic and always seems thrilled to be there. Victor Barbee (Assoc. Artistic Director) was the quintessential King Florestan, with Karen Uphoff as his Queen. Mr. Barbee seemed truly torn about how to handle the fate of the attendants who allowed the spindle onto the palace grounds. This was his most theatrical moment, and he seized the stage. Wes Chapman (Artistic Director ABT II) could not have been more perfected as Catalabutte, who loses some hair for omitting Carabosse’s name from his list.

There are a number of minor role Fairies, with Hee Seo as The Fairy of Sincerity, Kristi Boone as The Fairy of Fervor, Leann Underwood as The Fairy of Charity, Sarah Lane as The Fairy of Joy, and Simone Messmer as The Fairy of Valor. Of these five brief, but demanding, solo roles, Hee Seo and Simone Messmer were most inspired and illumined. Of the six Fairy Knights, Luis Ribagorda caught my eye. In the Wedding scene, there are engaging fairy tale characters that come to life and entertain the guests. Without doubt, Yuriko Kajiya, as Princess Florine, was a show-stopper. Her partner, Jared Matthews, as The Bluebird, an iconic role, was not. He managed high jumps, wide leaps, and en air kicks, but his personality did not shine through. Au contraire, Ms. Kajiya was a porcelain figure, like a Fragonard painting of a stunning blue Princess, in sparkling, scintillating motion.

Isabella Boylston and Mikhail Ilyin appeared as The Cat and Puss-in-Boots, but in this McKenzie/Kirkland/Chernov version, the wedding character dances are abbreviated and mostly communal. Mary Mills Thomas and Arron Scott were Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, while Maria Bystrova and Daniel Mantei were Cinderella and Prince Charming. Of these merged dances, I found Ms. Boylston’s Cinderella most alluring. Willa Kim’s costumes enhanced the colorful scenes, without distracting from the action. The Fairy Carabosse and minions costumes were among the most fascinating, with Aurora’s wedding tutu gorgeous as well. David LaMarche, Conductor, focused intently on the dancers as he led his Orchestra in tone and tempo, maximizing the energy of the sumptuous Tchaikovsky score. Kudos to tonight’s cast.

Paloma Herrera in
ABT's "Sleeping Beauty"
Courtesy of MIRA

Paloma Herrera in
ABT's "Sleeping Beauty"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at