- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Royal Ballet’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’

Kennedy Center Opera House

Tonight through Sunday

HISTORY — Everyone knows the story of a maiden caught in a spell who is awakened after a long sleep by the kiss of a handsome prince. It’s a folk tale that floated around Europe in various versions for centuries and finally was brought to the stage by the kiss of the great Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. His soaring music for “The Sleeping Beauty” inspired the 19th century’s finest choreographer, Marius Petipa, to his ultimate masterpiece.

THE PLOT— Dramatically, it’s a bit odd. A big celebration is held for the christening of the infant Princess Aurora, but Carabosse, an evil spirit not invited, has a hissy fit and pronounces a curse: One day Aurora will prick her finger and die. But wait … The Lilac Fairy, a benign spirit, amends that fate. The outcome is foreordained, leaving the ballet free to unroll a stream of beautiful dancing.

THE COMPANY — The Royal Ballet’s connection to “Beauty” is practically symbiotic. At the gala reopening of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, after World War II, the fledgling company performed “Beauty.” Its New York debut with “Beauty” brought the company and its star, Margot Fonteyn, international fame. In 1994 the Royal staged the world premiere of then-director Anthony Dowell’s version here at the Kennedy Center. Now its latest director, former ballerina Monica Mason (herself a memorable Aurora), brings a new “Sleeping Beauty” in its American premiere tonight.

WHY SHOULD I GO? — Because it’s the wellspring of classical dance, with an outpouring of some of ballet’s greatest hits, including the famous Rose Adagio when Aurora makes her first appearance; entrancing the audience with her youth and charm, dazzling it with the splendor of her dancing. There is a vision scene in an imaginary garden, the regal pomp of scenes at court, and a final act that includes the brilliant Bluebird Pas de Deux, culminating in the lovers’ radiant duet. These are iconic moments all packed into one grand, sumptuous ballet.

—Jean Battey Lewis

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