Of all of his ballets, Tchaikovsky cherished most “The Sleeping Beauty.” And on Sunday afternoon at Proctors, audiences did too as Moscow Festival Ballet’s offered a sparkling rendering of the classic.
It was a pleasant surprise as, in the past few years, some of the regional Russian ballet troupes that tour our country have looked quite shabby. With the exception of a few ratty wigs, there was nothing tattered with this fairy tale. The backdrops of palace courts and gardens were draped in elegance. The costumes, especially the classical tutus, were crisp and gorgeous, dripping in jewels. And the dancing, especially from the Lilac Fairy, performed by Ekaterina Egorova, and Princess Aurora, danced by Maria Poliudova, was excellent.
Those familiar with Disney's “The Sleeping Beauty” were likely confused by the more elaborate libretto of the ballet version. There are more fairies than anyone could swat away and a dream wedding at the end with guests including Puss 'n’ Boots and Little Red Riding Hood. Yet it was the main characters who intrigued throughout.
The Lilac Fairy, in her deep purple tutu with a lilac branch in her hand, was a knockout at her first adagio entrance. With the oboe heralding her, Egorova turned slowly as if she were herself laden in fragrant blossoms. Even though a smile never crossed her lips, she exuded a wellspring of goodwill. She was so convincing that every time she appeared, it was reassurance that all would remain safe.
She had a job on her hands with the cranky Fairy Carabosse who was livid about not being invited to Aurora’s christening. Danced by in drag by Alexander Daev, she was a combination Cruella Deville and the Wicked Witch of the West out for revenge. Hunched and brandishing a cane, she appeared more menacing as she was followed about by three grotesque, hopping minions who savored fear and chaos.
Poliudova as Aurora was a delight. She combined just the right balance of youthful energy and sweetness. Though a tad shaky in the difficult Rose Adagio balances, she made up for it with her acting prowess, depicting Aurora as carefree despite the pressure of facing four eager suitors at once. When she pricked her finger with a needle, the audience quivered as she quaked. Her faint, at the edge of the stage, was all drama and despair.
Her Prince Desire, danced by Uriy Voscubenko, was not as dashing as one might expect. And his jetes were weak in form and ballon. But he did rise high in his jumps, which made audiences cheer.
In general, the artists of the Moscow Festival Ballet are fine actors, pumping the narrative with more showmanship than most Americans would allow. But in this “The Sleeping Beauty,” it never boiled over to the ridiculous.
Finally, it was wonderful to see Proctors nearly full for a ballet. As a matinee, it gave families a chance to come out en masse. And they were graced with a wonderful show.