Boston Ballet creates majestic Sleeping BeautyThe Sleeping Beauty
Starring Jennifer Gelfand
and Viktor Plotnikov.
The Wang Center.
Continues until Nov. 7.
By Kaiteh Tao
Probably everyone has seen at one time or another the annual Christmas production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. It may come as a surprise that the same Tchaikovsky was equally responsible for works such as Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake that revolutionized the ballet genre and popularized it as an art form. Thus, it is quite appropriate for Boston Ballet to dedicate its 30th anniversary season to Tchaikovsky, by opening with a wonderful new production of Tchaikovsky's timeless classic, Sleeping Beauty.
At a time when musicals are increasingly marked by elaborate sets that often overwhelm the principle players, it is quite refreshing to find a production that sports a majestic 19th century royal court without losing the audience in the process. Based on the original fairy tale by Charles Perrault, Sleeping Beauty tells the story of the young Princess Aurora, who is condemned to an untimely death at the young age of 16, by an evil fairy Carabosse. Luckily, Aurora's fairy godmother, the Lilac Fairy, casts a spell of protection, ensuring that Aurora will not die but instead fall into a deep slumber to be awakened by a prince's kiss 100 years later. During Aurora's 16th birthday celebration, the princess is wooed by four princes from different lands. Amidst all the festivities, a mysterious woman gives the princess a spindle as a present. By accident, Aurora pricks her finger on it, causing her to fall into deep slumber.
One hundred years later, Prince Desire is hunting near an enchanted castle, where Aurora's guardian, Lilac Fairy, appears to give him an image of the sleeping Aurora. Desire resolves to seek out the Princess with the guidance of the Lilac Fairy. When at last he discovers her, Desire kisses her, breaking the spell, and the castle reawakens amidst festivities once more. The final act is one big celebration as famous fairy tale characters like Puss 'n Boots, the White Cat, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Wolf, come to dance as they salute the marriage of Aurora and Desire.
Boston Ballet principal dancers Jennifer Gelfand and Viktor Plotnikov are paired well as the main leads, Aurora and Desire. Gelfand's dancing is quite convincing as she portrays a young girl's coming of age, who dances around in innocent joy in response to her role as the court's precious darling. Plotnikov, comes fresh from the Donetsk Ballet Company in Ukraine, as one of the newest members of the Boston Ballet Company.
Arthur Leeth was equally effective as regal King Florestan who along with his consort, played by the noble Carla Stallings, was followed by several attendants from the Boston Ballet Training School. Once can't help but be thankful that today's society does not require the same heavy robes that the royal court sported in the 19th century.
The highlight of the performance though was in the third act as the audience watched favorite fairy tale characters come to life. The interactions between Puss 'n Boots (Shawn Mahoney) and the White Cat (Melinda DeChiazza) showed that the Boston Ballet's talent will carry it far into the next thirty years. Puss was quite busy as he pranced about teasing the White Cat, with their tails fluttering about each other amidst all the action. The Wolf (David Porter) was equally delightful as he scrambled around attempting to capture the Little Red Riding Hood (Claudia Alfieri).
Though Sleeping Beauty runs for three hours, the time passes quickly. The majesty of the setting coupled with the special effects, makes this production a memorable experience. Seeing the many little boys and girls from the Ballet School perform as attendants, village maidens, and youths, it is clear that the ballet as an art form is more than simply men in tights and women on pointed toes. Tchaikovsky would be proud to see that his works is equally as effective today as it was 100 years ago.