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Sleeping Beauty

Fairytale ballet underwhelms Nicola Mostyn

Published on February 1st 2008.


Sleeping Beauty

This production of Sleeping Beauty (followed by The Nutcracker later in the week) is produced by Ellen Kent, the woman behind Ellen Kent Opera and Ballet International and the first producer to introduce Eastern European opera to Britain. After beginning to tour opera in 1994, Kent introduced dance in 1999, drawing talent from The Chisinau National Ballet of Moldova.

It was a wonderful experience to watch the Terentievs, particularly Kristina, but this was not, ultimately, enough to hold up an entire ballet

According to the programme, The Chisinau National Ballet was formed in 1957 and is one of the leading companies in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately there is little information on the individual dancers, where they came from or how experienced they are, with most of the focus directed at the two stars of the ballet, Kristina Terentieva (who plays Princess Aurora) and her real-life husband, Alexei Terentiev (Prince Desire). And, as the ballet begins, you start to see why.

The production opens in a strangely static, understated way as the King and Queen celebrate the birth of their daughter, Aurora. With costumes taken straight from the fairytale wardrobe, there is much to catch the eye in this production, but several of the cast seem to be there simply to sit, and things only really liven up when the fairies, dressed in splendidly coloured dresses and resembling cocktail umbrellas, bestow, one by one, their gifts upon the princess.

Natalia Korotkova makes an impression in the role of the Lilac Fairy (the one who lessens the evil spell cast on the princess from death to mere sleep), though she is outshone, in terms of memorability, by the lively Yellow Fairy. However, even to my untrained eyes, the dancing did not seem particularly tight.

When the evil Fairy Carabosse took to the stage to curse the princess, things went a little pantomimesque, as is the Russian tradition. Played by a man (Igor Gherchiu) Carabosse arrives to a backdrop of lightning and murky green shadows, in a carriage pulled by several chaps dressed as….well, I’m not sure. Mice? Bats? Whatever they were they had clearly been heavily influenced by the flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz but, alas, as they lolloped across the stage, they seemed more awkward than imposing.

In fact, it is only after the first interval (which comes around snappily after only half an hour) that Kristina Terentieva takes to the stage as the grown up Aurora and the ballet seems to get started.

The difference in standard between Terentieva and the other dancers is striking and, thus, slightly damning. A dancer since the age of six, Terentieva has performed all over Europe and last year she was the only dancer out of 300 to receive the Grand Prix award.

She is a mesmerising dancer, technically exact and with great stage presence, and the scene in which she is pricked by a needle was wonderfully done. Sadly, as soon as she exited, things felt slack and it was only when her husband arrived, as the Prince, and the pair performed together in a dream sequence that the stage could really hold one’s interest again.

It is a wonderful experience to watch the Terentievs, particularly Kristina, but this is not, ultimately, enough to hold up an entire ballet. The production also does itself no favours in its set and structure and the three intervals merely accustom the audience to short snappy scenes, so that the long last section, in comparison, seems to drag. Despite Tchaikovsky’s dramatic score, the ballet lacked dynamism and a sense of unity.

It was not all bad: there were some lovely moments of comedy, the panto element make this very accessible to children, and perhaps the company’s forthcoming production of The Nutcracker (running Thursday to Sat) might make good on the moments of real technical skill seen in the latter part of this production.

But overall, Sleeping Beauty was only really saved by its star, the charismatic and graceful Terentieva being the only thing stopping this audience member, at least, from catching forty winks of her own.

Sleeping Beauty tonight (Tue/Wed) 7.30pm, The Nutcracker, Thursday-Sat Feb 7-9, 7.30pm, Liverpool Empire. 0844 847 1722.

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Sir Howard WayFebruary 1st 2008.

Is 'Chisinau' still pronounced 'Kishinyoff' as it was in Soviet times?

OddballFebruary 1st 2008.

I believe that is also the Oldham pronunciation

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