Milwaukee Ballet, "The Sleeping Beauty"
On Saturday night, October 25, we went to see the Milwaukee Ballet
production of "The Sleeping Beauty," to the music by Pyotr Ilyich
Tchaikovsky. We were interested in this production for a number of
reasons. First, neither of us had ever seen a full production of this
famous ballet. Second, we were interested to see what Milwaukee Ballet
Director Michael Pink had done with it. We had heard from an
acquaintance who had recently seen a Chicago performance of the full
original choreography by Marius Petipa, and who had reported that it
was rather dull. However, when the papers reported that Pink had cut
an hour's worth of repetitions and reworked framing material while
retaining the classic Petipa set pieces, we were enthusiastic.
What we got was indeed a "good parts version," with some of Pink's
trademarks added. As noted here previously, he does the evil/weird
characters awfully well, and the villainess Carabosse (danced by
Jeannette Marie Hanley) is no exception. She has been given four
goblinoid minions (Marc Petrocci, Garet Erwin, Katie Rideout, and Bret
Samson) who most often move as one entity with Carabosse as they
crawl, writhe and spin about the stage, sometimes carrying Carabosse,
and sometimes seeming to drag her like out-of-control horses.
The ballet opens with Carabosse dancing her curse of barrenness on the
King and Queen (Denis Malenkine and Nadia Thompson, the company's
Ballet Master and Mistress), whose monarchy she hopes to bring to an
end. Instead, the Lilac Fairy (Diana Setsura) provides the royal
couple with a baby girl that they discover under a rose bush in the
garden, and decide to raise as their own.
The story proceeds in the familiar fashion: there is a christening
celebration, and the various fairies bestow gifts of honesty, grace,
prosperity, song, and generosity. Enter Carabosse, who professes
outrage at not having been invited. The King blames the lapse on his
Master of Ceremonies, Catalbutte (Joel Hathaway), who is carried off
to punishment by Carabosse's servants. Not mollified, she then
pronounces her dreadful "gift"--that on her sixteenth birthday, the
child will prick her finger on the thorn of a red rose, and die. The
Lilac Fairy again intervenes, and amends the curse so that the
Princess will instead sleep for a hundred years until awakened by the
kiss of a Prince.
The second scene again starts with Carabosse, who creates a simulacrum
of a young girl, and arms it with the poisoned red rose. The scene then
transitions to Princess Aurora's sixteenth birthday celebration. Luz San
Michel, petite even among ballerinas, expresses the Princess very well,
charmingly receiving homage from her subjects. It is in this scene that
the famous "Sleeping Beauty Waltz" is heard, although choreographically
it is a pretty round dance done by the peasants in honor of their
Princess. After Aurora flirts with her four suitors, the rose child
(Amelia Foss) appears and teases her with the red rose, which she
eventually gets, and, of course, pricks herself. The celebration turns
to alarm as the Princess falls fainting. The King homes in on the rose
child as the culprit, but she is replaced by Carabosse. Carabosse fells
Aurora's suitors and is about to make good her prophecy of the Princess'
death with the sword of one of the princes when the Lilac Fairy comes to
the rescue. Not prepared to fight the Lilac Fairy, Carabosse disappears
with a mocking salute. Aurora is borne to her canopied bed, and the
Lilac Fairy casts the spell which will put the whole castle into
As the second act opens, it is a hundred years later. We are introduced
to Prince Desire (Ryan Martin), who is part of a merry hunting party
hosted by the Duchess (Rachel Malehorn). The Duchess and other women of
the party have eyes for the handsome prince, but he is lead away by a
vision of the sleeping princess. In the most dramatic sequence, Desire
is waylaid by Carabosse and her minions. The stage was lit by swirling
green lights that well evoked a running battle in the deep woods. The
prince scatters the goblins and fells Carabosse with a blow from his
hunting dagger. Forest spirits and the Lilac Fairy guide Desire to
Aurora's bedside, where he awakens her.
The last half of the act is taken up with dances in celebration of
Aurora's rescue and marriage to Desire. Besides the fairies, other
storybook characters appear, including Puss in Boots and the White Cat
(Darren McIntyre and Susan Gartell) in a very clever and funny pas de
deux, and Princess Florine and the Bluebird (Yuki Clark and Marc
Petrocci) in a very athletic leaping dance.
As far as we could discern, the dancing was flawless and the orchestra,
conducted by Andrews Sill, well in hand. Costumes were pretty and not
overdone. We approved of Mr. Pink's decision to go with minimal sets,
but agreed with the Journal/Sentinel critic in that we thought the
cyclorama used to project sky and mood effects rather loomed
distractingly over the dancers.
However, that was the only quibble, and we were very happy with the
production and the performance.