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American Ballet Theatre: The Sleeping Beauty 2011
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American Ballet Theatre: The Sleeping Beauty 2011

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American Ballet Theatre

The Sleeping Beauty 2011
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
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 6, 2011

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

The Sleeping Beauty (2007): 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 Alina Cojocaru as Princess Aurora, Johan Kobborg as Prince Désiré, Stella Abrera as The Lilac Fairy, Martine Van Hamel as The Fairy Carabosse, Victor Barbee as King Florestan, Karen Uphoff as His Queen, Isaac Stappas as Catalabutte, The King’s Chief Minister, Melanie Hamrick as The Fairy of Sincerity, Kristi Boone as The Fairy of Fervor, Leann Underwood as The Fairy of Charity, Luciana Paris as The Fairy of Joy, Simone Messmer as The Fairy of Valor, Alexei Agoudine, Grant De Long, Roddy Doble, Joseph Gorak, Alexandre Hammoudi, and Mikhail Ilyin as The Fairy Knights, Blaine Hoven as The Russian Prince, Roman Zhurbin as The Spanish Prince, Grant De Long, as The Indian Prince, Roddy Doble as The Celtic Prince, Jessica Saund as The Countess, Alexei Agoudine as Gallison, The Prince’s Aide, Hee Seo and Sean Stewart as The Cat and Puss-in-Boots, Mary Mills Thomas and Eric Tamm as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, Nicola Curry and Daniel Mantei as Cinderella and Prince Charming, Isabella Boylston and Sascha Radetsky 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 Lauren Ann Bonfiglio and Theodore Elliman as The Village Children.

The one Aurora I wanted to see at Ballet Theatre this year was Alina Cojocaru, an exciting new Guest Artist this season, from the Royal Ballet. Ms. Cojocaru, from Romania, had been inspiring in her Don Quixote, partnered by the now retired Jose Manuel Carreño, and tonight she was partnered by Johan Kobborg, also a Principal at the Royal Ballet. Ms. Cojocaru had danced Aurora’s “Rose Adagio” in the Spring Gala, and she was so enthralling I just had to see her in the full role. The audience was not disappointed. We all know the fairy tale of The Sleeping Beauty, so there’s no need to synopsize the plot. Prince Désiré, Mr. Kobborg, is Ms. Cojocaru’s real life partner, as well as frequent ballet partner in London, so it was surprising that the onstage chemistry seemed restrained. Perhaps the style “across the pond” is less theatrical and impassioned than here at the Met, but there’s no comparison to seasoned partnering (like Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella, whom I’ve admired in these leads) onstage at Ballet Theatre, with fireworks and tenderness, side glances and impulsive virtuosity. To be fair, Ms. Cojocaru was substituting for Natalia Osipova, and Mr. Kobborg was substituting for David Hallberg, due to a variety of late season injuries. This particular staging of Beauty, by McKenzie-Kirkland-Chernov was probably new for both ballet stars.

Ms. Cojocaru’s Act I arrival in “The Spell” had her dashing downstairs to her “Rose Adagio” with four Princes, steadying herself endlessly en pointe, with or without assistance for balance, sometimes holding long-stemmed roses, and doing this all repetitively for several minutes. When her “Rose Adagio” finished, she was greeted with extensive adulation. There’s always a joyful uproar, after this virtuosic test of strength and poise, but tonight’s was extra ebullient, due to the surprise for so many in meeting this ballet celebrity from The Royal. From the moment she stepped onstage, the element of intense anticipation was thick. Ms. Cojocaru dances with radiant internal demeanor, but reveals her dramatic side. She has the luster of a star, with an inherent warm glow of confidence. Her legs kick up to her head, her elevation during leaps reaches high above the stage. She’s luxurious with her Prince and attentive to King Flourestan and the Queen. Her legs are like steel; she’s poised, consistent, and never grandstanding. Her bows and audience acknowledgement are humble and gracious. When she spins, she waits before lowering a leg. She’s efficient, even sometimes too efficient, as there was little vulnerability in this powerhouse Aurora.

Mr. Kobborg was regal, smiling, attractive, fully muscular, and athletic. Yet, it was astounding to find out he was Ms. Cojocaru’s true partner, as he seemed focused more on the steps and the stage, then on the moment-to-moment drama. I had seen Mr. Kobborg dance with the Royal Danish Ballet in June, with intensity and depth, but one can assume he was quite familiar with that previous staging and choreography. Here, at the Met, he seemed to be more internalized, emotionally shallow. I’d like to see this duo again, in future performances, in more rehearsed choreography. These are truly ballet luminaries. Stella Abrera was the Lilac Fairy, and her demeanor was studied and taut. The role of Lilac Fairy is one for a luxuriant dancer, with fullness of sweep and warm persona. Ms. Abrera danced with strength, but not sensuality. Martine Van Hamel was a sensational Fairy Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy’s nemesis. Ms. Van Hamel is astutely entertaining in this role, relishing her “Minions”, four dancing insects on long, spidery legs. Those four male dancers brought out the evil cartoonish quality of the creatures with rapid entrances and exits.

Victor Barbee and Karen Uphoff, as the King and Queen, Aurora’s parents, were stately and convincing, as they obsessed on ridding the Kingdom of all spinning wheels at once. The fairy tale drama, with Catalabutte (Isaac Stappas), the king’s chief minister, who forgets to invite Carabosse to Aurora’s Christening, was theatrically infused. Five Fairies: Sincerity, Fervor, Charity, Joy, and Valor were danced by Melanie Hamrick, Kristi Boone, Leann Underwood, Luciana Paris, and Simone Messmer. Ms. Hamrick and Ms. Messmer were most effective, with mature presence and vividness. Of the six Fairy Knights, Alexei Agoudine, Grant DeLong, Roddy Doble, Joseph Gorak, Alexandre Hammoudi, and Mikhail Ilyin, Joseph Gorak was one whom I’d like to see featured in the near future. He was a cut above. The four Princes, showcased in the “Rose Adagio”, were Blaine Hoven, Roman Zhurbin, Grant DeLong, and Roddy Doble, with Roman Zhurbin catching my eye. Although this is a slow moving segment for the Princes, their steadiness with Aurora determines the success of her balance, critical to the moment.

In the Hunt scene, Act II, when the Prince is first seen outdoors, with raised goblets and a glowing fall forest, spotlighting Aurora’s distant castle, Jessica Saund was the rejected Countess, whom the Prince tosses off for an adventure in his mind. Ms. Saund’s dramatic moment was perfect in the plot. Alexei Agoudine was also appropriate as Gallison, the Prince’s aide. The Act III Wedding Celebration is too efficiently drawn, with no dances for Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Cinderella and Prince Charming, or the Cat and Puss in Boots. They arrive and dance in ensemble. However, there was the infamous Princess Florine and the Bluebird Pas de Deux, featuring Isabella Boylston and Sascha Radetsky. Ms. Boylston served this considerable role with emphatic style and compelling aplomb. However, Mr. Radetsky seemed less balanced and impassioned than other Ballet Theatre Bluebirds, in seasons past. He bounced on the beat, but there was little excitement therein.

The Grand Pas de Deux in the Wedding Act was worth the wait. Here the lead duo relaxed and showed their chemistry. Here Ms. Cojocaru let herself go with abandon, falling into Mr. Kobborg’s arms and torso with electricity that reverberated through the House. It was in the Act III photo finish, that leads to the veils and crowns, when the entire production and cast burst with life. This was a fine finale. This 2007 ABT production has engaging storybook sets by Tony Walton, including the Lilac Fairy’s evocative swan boat, that leads the Prince to the thorny overgrown forest. The brightly designed costumes by Willa Kim and Holly Hynes, plus the picturesque sets, appeal to the child in all of us. It’s important to introduce children early on to the world of ballet, and having some story ballets that engage children, like The Sleeping Beauty, with colorful, eye-catching sets and costumes, plus understandable, comedic drama, expands on nurturing young audiences into becoming future balletomanes. Ballet Theatre has several such productions, including Coppélia, Don Quixote, and Le Corsaire. Kudos to all.

Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg
in "The Sleeping Beauty"
Courtesy of MIRA

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