Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Dutch National Ballet's "The Sleeping Beauty" - I have waited nearly 50 years for this show

Standard YouTube Licence

The Dutch National Ballet The Sleeping Beauty, Stopera, Amsterdam 17 Dec 2017, 14:00

It's funny how some performances stand out in one's memory over the years.  The performance of The Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet on 22 July 1972 was one of those. Dame Margot Fonteyn danced Aurora and Rudolf Nureyev Florimund.  It was a glorious evening and I saw the show when I was at a high point of my life, shortly after graduating from St Andrews and just before I was due to take up a scholarship to UCLA.

I've seen many excellent performances of The Sleeping Beauty since then by Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Hungarian National Ballet and lots of other companies including the Royal Ballet. None has come close to that show on 22 July 1972. It was for me the gold standard. At least not until last Sunday. Now, over 46 years after that remarkable performance by Fonteyn and Nureyev, I have seen its peer.

The matinee that I attended on Sunday afternoon had been staged by Sir Peter Wright, It is a production that I had seen several times before and know very well, Although the music, choreography and designs appeared to be the same as those I had seen before, Sunday's show had a freshness, an energy, a je ne sais quoi that somehow distinguished it from all previous performances of that ballet since 1972. The reason why it was so good is that HNB is one of the world's great companies and very special as Sir Peter noted in a YouTube clip to promote a previous revival (see Sir Peter Wright has wonderful words for the company (Dutch National Ballet) HNB 6 Dec 2010). In fact, when a gentleman in the seat next to me asked how it compared with London I replied that for my money HNB was the best company in Europe if not the world.

HNB has some brilliant dancers. Aurelia was danced on Sunday by Maia Makhateli. Although she trained in Georgia and the USA she seemed to dance very much in the English way displaying a pleasing line and considerable virtuosity but without exaggeration or gratuitous theatricality. Her rose adage was superb and readers can see her performing it in Maia Makhateli Sleeping Beauty Rose Adagio 28 Oct 2016 YouTube. It is the best I can remember. I should add that Ms Makhateli is as charming off stage as she is impressive on it for when I asked her to sign a card to my contributor, Helen McDonough, in a signing session after the show she knew exactly to whom I was referring.

Ms Makhateli was partnered gallantly by Daniel Camargo. He is a very powerful but also very graceful dancer and he can also project emotion and feeling as well as any voice actor. In those regards he reminds me very much of Nureyev at the same age.  Sunday's performance was the first time I had seen him in a major role and I was impressed,  His rise to principal in Stuttgart over just a few years was meteoric. Although he is still quite young, he has already achieved a lot.  His potential must be considerable.

As Perrault's tale is essentially a struggle between good and evil, the most important characters are perhaps the lilac fairy and Carabosse.  Erica Horwood was a delightful lilac fairy but the prima ballerina, Igone de Jongh, was the best Carabosse I have ever seen, Both appeared with their attendants and Carabossse's were particularly creepy. The other fairies, Jessica Xuan, Suzanna Kaic, Yuanyuan Zhang, Naira Agvannean, Aya Okumura and Maria Chugai, danced exquisitely There were strong solo performances in the final act. I particularly liked Young Gyu Choi's and his partner Suzanna Kaic as the bluebirds and Clotilde Tran-Phat and Daniel Montero Real as the white cat and Puss'n Boots. Everyone in the cast danced well but this overlong review would resemble a telephone directory if I gave every artist the credit he or she deserves.

The Stopera's enormous stage displayed Philip Prowse's gorgeous costume and set designs to optimum advantage.

It was thrilling to sit in centre of the second row of the stalls just a few feet behind the celebrated conductor Boris Gruzin. It was tantamount to being in the orchestra pit. Indeed, it was almost like being on stage.

The Sleeping Beauty will run to New Year's Day but, sadly, almost every performance is fully booked. However, Birmingham Royal Ballet's version, also produced by Sir Peter Wright and also very good, is about to go on tour.  It will visit Southampton between 31 Jan and 3 Feb, Birmingham between 13 and 24 Feb, Greater Manchester between 28 Feb and 3 March, Cardiff between 14 and 17 March and Plymouth between 21 and 24 March.

Finally, I must apologize to readers for the long and embarrassing delay since my last post in November. I have made made copious notes of Rambert's Ghost Dances at the Alhambra, Northern Ballet's The Little Mermaid in Sheffield, Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker in Birmingham and the Russian State Ballet and Opera House's Romeo and Juliet in Harrogate not to forget the preview of Sharon Watson's Windrush, cinema relays of the Bolshoi's Le Corsaire and the Royal Ballet's Alice in Wonderland and The Nutcracker, Martin Dutton's inspiring Nutcracker intensive, great classes at Pineapple and Huddersfield and the Arts Council's seminar on grant applications. I will try to get these out to you by the end of the year.


  1. Thank you. Im going to see this ballet at HNB tomorrow with my mother. It will be her first classical ballet. Maia and Daniel should als be the main dancers for my Sleeping Beauty and if the rest of the cast is also the same im in for a great evening.

  2. Oh you lucky people! I hope you and your mum have a great evening. I am sure she will love the show. My kind regards to her.