Review by Gemma Keliher
Seated in front of the Lyric Theatre’s grand red curtain, my heart swelled as it rose with the first notes of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. In a time where people around the world are still faced with being stuck inside, how wonderous it is that we can experience the beauty of a full ballet production, once again reunited with a live orchestra. The Sleeping Beauty is a classic - both as a fairytale and a ballet. You expect nothing short of a being transported directly into the romantic world of a fairytale, and Queensland Ballet did not disappoint. From the dancing, the set, the costumes, to the special effects, this was the type of memorable production that ignites a long-lasting passion for the world of ballet.
Greg Horsman did a wonderful job blending story and dance, his choreography blending seamlessly with Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. You could sense the passion behind the work which shone through the way the story was shaped to support the dance. The set and costumes design by Gary Harris were magical. The set felt like the pages of a fairytale come to life. Each element supported the tale, from the shadow play, the vines taking over the stage, to the spinning castle rooms. The costumes were breathtaking and they had a wonderful blend of period and fantasy. The detailing was so thoughtfully designed and executed, and huge commendations particularly to the King, Queen, and court dancers in Act I who were in, what were surely, very heavy layers and huge headpieces but still moved with such grace and ease. While all the costumes were magnificent, some of my favourites included the blue and gold court costumes at the end of Act II which produced such a grand sight as the curtain raised to reveal them, as well the Carabosse, whose costume was appropriately as evil looking and villainous as the character is.
In terms of production, I feel there was opportunity to make the Carabosse’s first entrance more dramatic. My eye was drawn to action on the other side of the stage, and by the time I saw her minions halfway down the stairs, she had appeared in almost a ‘blink and you miss it’ entrance. There were some marvelous villain moments crafted later throughout, including disappearing behind a blast of flames, and the highlight, of course, being the transformation into the magnificent dragon which made me feel like a child filled with wonder and awe.
The role of Princess Aurora requires such skill and ability, and Yanela Piñera certainly fit the bill. There is so much power needed for the choreography, particularly for the famous Rose Adagio, which demands stamina, balance and control. This was well executed by Piñera and impressive to watch. There were beautiful moments of chemistry between Aurora and Prince Désiré, performed tonight by Joel Woellner. Woellner brought a gentle grace and sweetness to the role that was lovely to watch develop from when he was first shown the vision of the Princess, to their final pas de deux. Serena Green, as Carabosse the Black Fairy, was wonderfully villainous and was delightful to watch as she terrorised and tormented.
Another credit to Horsman’s choreography was each fairy having their own personality which seemed to suit each dancers style well. Mia Heathcote as the Lilac Fairy, Vanessa Morelli as the Blue Fairy, Sophie Zoricic as the Green Fairy, Georgia Swan and the Orange Fairy, and Lou Spichtig as the Yellow Fairy were all captivating together and on their own. Neneka Yoshida and Victor Estévez looked stunning as the Blue Birds and the skill level and ease at which they performed both their solos and partner work was beautiful.
The casting on a whole seemed appropriate and the performances were wonderful with impeccable dedication to character. Luke Dimattina as Catalabutte and Isabella Swietlicki as Lady Florine, both cat figures in this production, were perfect examples of this commitment and provided some lovely moments of comedy. Even when situated in the background all dancers were still engaged and keeping with their characterisations, which meant the energy on stage never dropped. With so much action happening, no matter where your eye was drawn everyone was present. While I greatly enjoyed Saturday’s casting, the level of commitment and dedication should assure that no matter which cast you see they will not disappoint.
Overall, this was an enchanting and high production value showcase of ballet. The pure talent, drive, and passion for the performance was evident from the creative team and dancers alike. Not to mention simply how wonderful it was to be once again witnessing a full length production with a live orchestra. The Sleeping Beauty is a must-see production, for lovers of both ballet and fairytales, and sets a high bar for the rest of the Queensland Ballet 2021 season.