On the 19 April, the sparkling elegance of the Vienna Festival Ballet stunned a York audience into a silent, mesmerised mass. With Peter Mallek directing the piece, accompanied by the powerful music of Tchaikovsky, the bustling hoards of theatregoers dutifully assembled amongst the surroundings of the Grand Opera House, ready to be transported to an age of breathtaking grace.
As the lights dimmed, the atmosphere was quiet and anticipatory, and with a Milky Way in one hand, juice carton in the other (the epitome of class at the theatre), we eagerly awaited the curtains unfolding. After the fluttering feeling of being so close to such a beautiful art form, I reverted back to immaturity and began to lightly giggle at the uncompromising trousers of the male ensemble. The laughter gently rippled around the room and I began to relax.
The glittering dresses and lush floral scenery were a sight to behold and the balance and grace throughout the performance was beyond comprehension. Lucy Scott, my companion for the evening, stated:
‘Once you get used to the non-verbal communication and vibrant costumes, the stage comes to life. Princess Aurora evokes a happiness and magic in the performance which is infectious to watch.’
The fast paced and exciting orchestral score was expertly accompanied by the light and delicate Petipa choreography, especially when the Lilac Fairy set to awake the kingdom from their centurion slumbers. This was then clashed with the pulsating throbs of violin as the wicked fairy Carabosse appeared on stage, met with a roar of ‘boo’s from the very much engaged audience. As well as the frantic music and serious content, humour had a huge role to play in the ballet. From Carabosse being carried onstage by pirouetting gorillas (reminiscent of the sinister Flying Monkeys of ‘Wizard of Oz’ fame) to the Medusa-esque gaze that entrances the kingdom, the audience were encouraged to laugh despite the heavy subplot.
After the mandatory rustling of sweet packets and phone checks associated with the interval (as well as a stray inebriated man who snuck into a vacant box seat), the unadulterated joy of the fairies greeted us once again. Despite numerous mischievous efforts to prevent Sleeping Beauty from the perils of the evil fairy, the naïve and elfin princess refused to let go of the needle and immediately suffered, to the audience’s dramatic gasps, before being graciously rescued by the heroic Prince Florimund…
‘The drama of the ballet was fantastic. The stamina they have is phenomenal and to say they are limited by the lack of a live orchestra and a small stage, its depth and beauty is just lovely’.
Sleeping Beauty perfectly encapsulated the art of the fairy tale without the Disney-esque schmaltz popular in other adaptations. Its refreshing and detailed charm, along with the elaborate costumes and vivid drama, made Sleeping Beauty a brilliantly inventive success.