The Sleeping Beauty

Fittingly chosen by Colorado Ballet Artistic Director Martin Fredmann as the first work to be performed in the company's new venue, The Sleeping Beauty, she the newborn Princess Aurora, is introduced to the world in a regal, high-ceilinged hall, like a Russian nesting doll, within the soaring arches of the newly-christened Ellie Caulkins Opera House, all wrapped inside the envelope of the venerable Quigg Newton Auditorium Theatre.

Photo of the sleeping beauty and court
The sleeping beauty and court
Photo: Terry Shapiro
The ballet's setting, too, is a perfect fit: it is the grandest of all classical ballets, with both opulent and magical backdrops (these courtesy of the Boston Ballet), a pleasing mix of formal and casual dances, and a fairy tale ending.

The spectacle itself could not be grander. There is no mistaking the emotive, rich orchestration of Tchaikovsky, nor the classic presentation and flowing lines of his collaborator, the renowned French ballet master Marius Petipa, who choreographed the first production of this wondrous spectacle in St. Petersburg in 1890.

As the short overture subsides, the courtiers and ladies-in-waiting who populate the great room of the mythical King Florestan's palace are resplendent in regal costumes warm in golden and crimson tones.

The Colorado Ballet's version, staged by company ballet master Meelis Pakri with associate artistic director Jocelyn Labsan and principal repetiteur Andrew Thompson, is a synthesis of styles drawn from what they found most pleasing in a variety of previous versions, but principally based on Petipa's original and Konstantine Sergeyev's 1920 adaptation. Given the scheduling demands of the production, with 22 performances over three and a half weeks time, the principal roles are triple-cast.

Photo of Maria Mosina as Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty
Maria Mosina as Princess Aurora,
the Sleeping Beauty
Photo: Terry Shapiro
On opening night, with Maria Mosina as Princess Aurora and Igor Vassin as Prince Desiré, the quintessential elegance of the story is fully realized. The dance in which the sixteen year-old Aurora is courted by four princes takes the breath away, as Mosina is left to balance on one point in-between each suitor's turn. This is followed by a poignant solo to a single violin. Later, in the wedding scene, the passion is palpable as Mosina and Vassin incrementally build trust between the new lovers.

Photo of Igor Vassin as Prince Desire
Igor Vassin as Prince Desiré
Photo: Terry Shapiro
The gondola ride, as the Lilac Fairy and the Prince make their way to the enchanted forest, is absolutely stunning, and the divertissements of Puss 'n' Boots and Little Red Riding Hood before the wedding are delightful. When the golden petals fall after solos capturing Vassin's exuberance and grace and Mossina's effortless joy, the fantasy is complete.

Chandra Kuykendall is resplendent as the Lilac Fairy, guiding the court through perilous waters, first as Carabosse's curse puts the kibosh on Aurora's christening ceremony and later when the witch returns to deliver her wicked promise at the princess' 16th birthday celebration.

Photo of Patricia Renzetti as Carabosse
Patricia Renzetti as Carabosse
Photo: Terry Shapiro
While the acoustics in the new opera house appear at first face to be excellent on the basis of the warm tones reaching the mezzanine from the Akiro Endo-led orchestra (we'll know more after we hear the vocals in the upcoming Opera Colorado production of Carmen), the same cannot be said of the ventilation. As the first act went on, the temperature in the upper reaches of the hall became sweltering. This was topped off by the aftermath of a stunning smoke-filled exit by Carabosse, which left acrid sulfur fumes pouring from the hall at intermission.

But the heat and the long lines at the concessions on the main floor (try going to the basement, where the massive bar that lines the new Kevin Taylor restaurant has much shorter lines) could hardly put a damper on such a glorious production. The Colorado Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty runs through October 16th. 303-837-8888 x2, or

Bob Bows


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