You know the story: good fairy/bad fairy, royals out of control, punishment by spells, kiss from a true love. The story ends happily, but there are plenty of dramatic moments. Some of those moments even include a dragon. However, in the Carolina Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty, it’s the comedic moments that shine.
It’s the end of the 20th anniversary year for the Carolina Ballet, a Triangle tradition that Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane celebrates in a proclamation declaring May 17, 2018 as “Carolina Ballet Day.” In an extensive statement, the mayor extolled the Ballet’s many achievements, including that fact that the Carolina Ballet creates more new works than any other ballet in the United States other than New York City Ballet.
There’s no doubt that the Triangle can boast one of the best ballet companies in the country, and that’s a success that director Robert Weiss can boast as his. As the mayor points out, the Triangle’s entertainment options are greatly enriched by the inclusion of the Ballet.
It’s also the end of the season and the time ballets traditionally trot out an old favorite. Sleeping Beauty is an appropriate choice, and this year’s production pulls out all the stops with beautifully designed backdrops and special effects that elicit delighted gasps from the little girls in tutus in the audience.
The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle played the recognizable score, written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93), one of three that the maestro wrote for ballets (The Nutcracker and Swan Lake are the other two). Conductor Alfred E. Sturgis and his musicians earned a standing ovation after the intermission and brought another level of drama to the production.
Though the original choreography was created by Marius Petipa (1818-1910), a Russian whose career spanned more than 50 years and who made a major impact on ballet, the interpretation, direction, and additional choreography was created by Robert Weiss.
The story opens in the palace of King Florestan (Oliver Béres), where he and his queen (Teresa Bowden) are celebrating the birth of their daughter, Aurora (played as an adult by Margaret Severin-Hansen). Master of Ceremonies Cattalbutte (Nikolai Smirnov) has forgotten an important person on the guest list: Carabosse, the fairy (Lindsay Purrington). That’s a huge faux pas that results in a threatening spell. Carabosse and her familiar, Raven (Yevgeny Shlapko), waste no time in cursing the little Aurora with death by spindle on her 16th birthday. Thankfully, Cattalbutte didn’t forget to invite the Lilac Fairy (Randi Osetek), who tempers the curse. Yes, Aurora will have her finger pricked by that spindle; but she won’t die. Instead, the Lilac Fairy blesses the baby, who’ll fall asleep for a long time (rather than dying) and can be awakened by a handsome prince’s kiss.
Yevgeny Shlapko and Lindsay Purrington are perfectly paired and become an energetic and humorous pair to watch when they take over the stage. In her shiny black costume, Purrington is both menacing and sexy. Her dancing, jerky and birdlike, is perfectly mirrored by Shlapko. They are stunning together and provide the highlight of the evening.
One of the other stars is the handsome Prince Desire (Richard Krusch), who’s truly one of the more likeable of all the balletic princes. He’s a man’s man, a hunter and brave enough to even take on a full-blown dragon (one of the best technical feats of the Ballet’s season). But he’s also a romantic and falls in love with the Princess Aurora before he even meets her.
Krusch dances powerfully, with extensive leaps across the stage, and appears to enjoy his solo so much that it appears effortless.
Of course, the role of the Princess Aurora is a favorite of every little ballerina, and Margaret Severin-Hansen, one of the Ballet’s principal dancers, a gorgeous artisan who makes every role uniquely her own, plays the young princess with a light touch that exudes youth and loveliness. It’s imperative that Aurora and the Prince have the chemistry this romantic ballet demands, and Krusch and Severin-Hansen fit their roles perfectly. They are often partnered, so they are capable of making their fish dive lifts appear natural and easy.
Others are not quite as well-paired. Rammaru Shindo and Courtney Schenberger portray Blue Bird and Princess Florine, with a pas de deux and solos that highlight their roles as merrymakers at the wedding of Prince Desire and Princess Aurora. Shindo, promoted to soloist two years ago, appears to be stronger when he’s on his own rather than partnering another dancer. Several missteps and a near drop during the dance were covered up, but Shindo didn’t appear to gather the self-confidence necessary to be a strong support for his partner. Schenberger is a lovely dancer whose ability to portray her character will help her grow into other characters that she’ll add to her repertoire.
The performers are not the only stars of this lovely production. Stunning costumes designed by David Heuvel pick up and reflect the lighting (designed by Ross Kolman). Several setting changes reflect the lush opulence of this ballet with interior palace scenes competing with extensive gardens. Place is important in this story that underlines the fact that wealth doesn’t matter if you don’t have someone you love. Using backdrops, curtains, and moving pieces (including a magic boat), scenery designer Jeff A.R. Jones creates a world. Literally.
Sleeping Beauty closes out the Carolina Ballet’s 2017-18 season with magic, fairies, princes and princesses, and even a dragon. It’s the perfect way to end the Ballet’s first 20 years, and the company’s newly announced 2018-19 season includes several old favorites, as well as newly choreographed ballets. Bring all your little frogs and princesses, your princes and dragons before Sleeping Beauty wakes up at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are available for four upcoming shows May 18-20.
SECOND OPINION: May 16th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/sleeping-beauty/Event?oid=14313778; and May 13th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Linda Haac: http://www.newsobserver.com/living/article210251159.html.
The Carolina Ballet presents Tchaikovsky’s SLEEPING BEAUTY at 8 p.m. May 18, 2 and 8 p.m. May 19, and 2 p.m. May 20 in the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $37.15-$96.15, except $20 per ticket for college students with ID and free to high school students with ID. Click here for details.
Carolina Ballet Box Office: 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or http://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets/group-sales/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/sleeping-beauty1, https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/repertoire-entry/P45, https://www.facebook.com/events/149569915602859/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/sleeping-beauty-8233.
2017-18 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/2017-2018-season.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Sleeping Beauty (1890 ballet): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sleeping_Beauty_(ballet) (Wikipedia).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet‘s co-artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_(choreographer) (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.