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Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden

Princess Aurora – Alina Cojocaru
Prince Florimund – Federico Bonelli
King Florestan XXIV – Christopher Saunders
His Queen – Elizabeth McGorian
Cattalabutte – Alastair Marriott
Carabosse – Genesia Rosato
Lilac Fairy – Marianela Nuñez

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Valery Ovsyanikov

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London 5 December 2006

Opus Arte OA 0995 D [TT: 174 mins]

This DVD will give a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. From MP's musical point of view, the endlessly inventive Tchaikovsky score (his longest - might his ballets outlive his symphonies?) is played alertly and (I thought) lovingly by a committed ROH Orchestra under Valery Ovsyaniokov, a conductor about whom I could find no information on the Web nor in Opus Arte's lavishly illustrated booklet. [11 pages of colour pictures, many of them double-page spreads, and with 4 X 3 pages of trilingual historical notes.]

By surfing reviews of the 2006 live performances, I learn that it was "a restaging of the 1946 Oliver Messel production - - there has been some dilution - - weaker textual alternatives, with mime and entrances dully staged and that [in November] this Beauty needed better coaching" (The Independent). "Messel's vision as a homecoming for the Sleeping Beauty - - still magical, opulent and luminous - - some of the action has still to find its natural focus, its dramatic pulse" (The Guardian).

The ballet critics will soon report whether things had improved before this BBC TV filming the following month...

For us, it looked and sounded gorgeous and, with HD filming, one could enjoy the costumes far more than the last time I saw it half a century ago, up in the gallery.

We enjoyed the dancing of Alina Cojocaru as Aurora, Federico Bonelli a magnificent prince, the wicked Carabosse of Genesia Rosato [pictured R] and Marianela Nuñez's alluring Lilac Fairy - my indelible memory from an aeon ago was of Beryl Grey in that role ("Surely there has never been a more gracious and commanding Lilac Fairy" – Dame Ninette de Valois). The wedding party with fairy tale character guests will delight another generation of youngsters.

We have just one, probably naive observation from our ignorant stance which we would like to be addressed? There will be many purchasers who will enjoy this retelling of the familiar story but who, like ourselves, are unversed in the special language of classical ballet mime, which plays a substantial part in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. For the brief and, in truth, scarcely necessary synopsis heard from a familiar BBC voice, multilingual subtitles are provided.

Subtitles to translate the esoteric language of the mimed discourse would bring new viewers far closer to what can seem, if you read the broadsheet ballet critics, an arcane world.The only book I have identified is currently unavailable;
" - - expressive gestures need to be as carefully studied and as clearly controlled as a pirouette or entrechat".

If this bound-to-be popular release achieves a re-print, might Opus Arte possibly extend that boon of DVD to the narrative portions of the ballet itself? Reactions to that thought would be appreciated.*

Meanwhile, on www.youtube.com do enjoy two on-line videos I have discovered - Monica Mason (producer of this Sleeping Beauty revival) rehearsing Genesia Rosato in her mime scene, and Anthony Dowell and Antoinette Sibley in a mime rehearsal of Swan Lake.

Peter Grahame Woolf

- - you are right about the subtitling : can you imagine watching Buster
Keaton's silent movies without the wonderful irony contained in the
captions? S.F.