Ballet review: The Sleeping Beauty, West Australian Ballet

Elite visual storytelling thrills in the form of dance.

It’s opening night at His Majesty’s Theatre. Lights dim and the orchestra springs to life as the first lines of The Sleeping Beauty are projected as old fashioned storybook text. The phrase ‘… this is how love and fear start their battle in Aurora’s heart,’ holds a hidden leitmotif, but the audience doesn’t know it, yet. 

The prologue begins in earnest when Minna Wallenius’ first stunning set is revealed to the audience. Princess Aurora has recently been born, and the kingdom is celebrating. Painted stone faces adorn the royal court, staring back at an already captivated audience. The West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky’s No. 1. Marche while the stage pulsates with mesmerising dancers in lavish costumes.

Music, movement, and mood merge in perfect unison as Aurora’s fairy godmothers arrive; Lilac (Alexa Tuzil), Grazia (Candice Adea), and Volante (Claire Voss). Erika Turunen’s opulent designs are complemented by Wallenius’ breathtaking sets; both are enhanced by Lighting Director Nigel Levings’ artful expertise in creating atmosphere and binding other elements together. There is no gaudiness here, and nothing is accidental. Every minute detail is skilfully crafted and carefully considered. 

A unicorn (Kassidy Thompson) appears on stage. Her coltish movements and clever costume elicits peals of delighted laughter from the audience. When the Fairy of Fear, Carabosse (played by Kiki Saito and Juan Carlos Osma) arrives, warm tones fade from the stage, and the air turns an ominous blue. Carabosse is fear and fury; powerful, but dangerous, encircled by snakes and the most incredible bats. Carabosse curses Aurora with the promise of a rose’s poisoned thorn, but the lethal damage is mitigated when the Fairy of Love, Lilac, weakens the curse. 

A stunning new set is revealed. A cave. It is as deep and creepy as the royal court is decadent. Carabosse hovers above a smoking cauldron, with a red rose and a human skull, smothered by sparse lights and fog; a sight made yet more dramatic by the rise and fall of Tchaikovsky’s timeless composition, masterfully conducted by Jessica Gethin. The prologue has ended. Act I may now begin. 

Read: Concert review: Last Night of the Proms, WASO

Over the next 80 minutes the audience is treated to consistently stunning choreography, and elite visual storytelling. Choreographer Javier Torres has adapted Marius Petipa’s classic 1890 choreography to embody a battle between fear and love, rather than the more traditional good-versus-evil. As a result, this interpretation transcends moral relativism to reach universally resonant emotional notes.

Torres’ vision is reflected in expressive but nuanced performances from Principals and Soloists alike. Chihiro Nomura and Oscar Valdes move together exquisitely as Princess Aurora and Prince Desiré, with every step flawlessly executed, embodying restraint and exuberance in equal measures. Matthew Lehmann’s Prince of the West (and his boat-hatted paramour) are unforgettable for the humorous charisma they bring to their characters, in addition to delivering world class ballet performances. 

Originally a collaboration between Tchaikovsky and Petipa, The Sleeping Beauty has enthralled countless audiences since it premiered 130 one years ago in Saint Petersburg. Tonight, The Sleeping Beauty premiered at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, performed by the West Australian Ballet and West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra. Every aspect of this production is aesthetically addictive and balanced in its contrasts; it is nostalgic, yet innovative. traditional, but fresh. This timeless ballet draws eager crowds and does not disappoint. 

The Sleeping Beauty
Composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 
Presented by West Australian Ballet and West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra
His Majesty’s Theatre, WA 

Conductor: Jessica Gethin
Artistic Director: Aurélien Scannella
Choreography: Javier Torres after Marius Petipa

Répétiteur: Ingrid Némecková
Dramaturge: Anneli Mäkelä

Costume Designer: Erika Turunen
Set Designer: Minna Wallenius

Lighting Designer: Nigel Levings
Video Designer: Timo Nyman

Tickets: $14-160

The Sleeping Beauty will be performed until 12 December 2021

Nanci Nott is an Australian writer who believes in dismantling traditional pedagogy in parenting and education, for the purpose of raising freethinking, compassionate, world-changers.