The Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty is almost a fairy tale. Following two costly and unfortunate versions, artistic director Monica Mason returned to the company's iconic 1946 production. It's handsomely traditional, with fantasy designs and a decent text. Good, but not as good as it could be. There are plenty of virtues here, but the production is just a step away from being magical.
Sarah Lamb, who danced the heroine Aurora on opening night, has recently returned after a long injury. Her dancing is as fine as ever. An elegant blonde, Lamb has everything the role needs: pure classical line, a light, high jump and strong, beautifully arched feet. In the Rose Adagio, her balances are clear and steady, while she has an airy lightness in the vision scene.
Yet Lamb remains a remote princess. Her Aurora doesn't overflow with joy at her birthday party, or rush into her prince's arms. She's best in the celebrations of the last act, where her cool authority becomes regal grandeur.
As her Prince, Ivan Putrov is polished but not hugely involved. His technique is assured, with an easy flow of movement, his mime scenes dutiful.
There's more energy from Marianela Nuñez, a warm and generous Lilac Fairy. Genesia Rosato has fun as the wicked fairy Carabosse, sweetly nasty in her imitations of other fairies. Conductor Valeriy Ovsyanikov sends the fairy soloists racing through their group dances, though his conducting of the last act is thrilling.
The dancing in this production is often neat where it should be grand. The corps de ballet sweep their arms through the curving lines of Marius Petipa's choreography, but the effect is lightweight. The gestures need more breadth, more scale.
There are exceptions. Laura Morera, dancing as a fairy and in the Bluebird pas de deux, brings out the contrast in every step. It's the kind of richness that would lift this production. Her Bluebird was Steven McRae, bounding through the demanding leaps and beaten steps of his solos.
The divertissements of the last act have been strongly cast. Ricardo Cervera and Iohna Loots flirt through the Puss in Boots number. As Florestan, another guest at Aurora's wedding, Sergei Polunin puts a gorgeous sheen on every step, soaring and turning exuberantly.
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