Monday, March 29, 2010
WALLA WALLA -- For the most part, there are two types of audience members in Cordiner Hall at the Sunday matinee Walla Walla Symphony/Eugene Ballet production of "Sleeping Beauty:" elderly couples and parents with girls aged 2 to 10. As the musicians tuned up, the little girls, dressed for the occasion in printed dresses and bows, skipped around and impatiently asked questions to their mothers, while the couples quietly grazed through their programs.
The lights were dimmed and the overture began. It was initially intense and menacing, though soon transitioned into the sweeping romance that we expect from a fairy tale.
The curtain opened to reveal a crafty set that placed the scene in a royal ballroom. In one corner, there was a giant bassinet draped in tulle, adjacent to two thrones, where, of course, the king and queen sat.
"Sleeping Beauty" is the ultimate ballet. Actually, "The Nutcracker" technically owns that title, as it is the most performed ballet. But Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's other famous ballet about the princess Aurora and her sonorous curse is the second most performed, and with its dramatic music, fairy tale story arch, and tutu-mania, it the quintessential example of the glittery extravagance that many tend to associate with ballet.
This particular production was no exception. The prologue, which shows a party where baby Aurora gets cursed, featured a whole array of boldly colored tutus worn by fairies, courtly gentlemen sporting royal purple tights and white wigs, and all sorts of sparkly crowns and adornments.
Throughout the performance, the dancers, both from the Eugene Ballet and students of Idalee Hutson-Fish, moved with grace and precision. The opening dance of the second act was a particularly memorable moment of the show in which maids leaped about with garlands and moved rapidly through elaborate formations. Not all the dances were quite this engaging, though the choreography is less to blame than Tchaikovsky's music, which (though lush and dreamy) seemed to draw out the most mundane parts of the story.
Yun-Kyung Kim and Jennifer Martin were both elegant in their parts as Princess Aurora and the Lilac Fairy, but the dancer who received the most enthusiastic applause was Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero as Prince Desire. During his solos, he danced with such energy that he seemed to jump four feet off the stage.
The other shining star of "Sleeping Beauty," of course, was the symphony. Led by conductor Yaacov Bergman, the musicians played with a vigor that captured all the whimsy and excitement of the story. (Side note for future concerts: the sound is much louder in the upper tier of Cordiner; sit there if you want the music to dominate the experience).
After intermission, during which there occurred a very unfortunate cookie shortage, the third act commenced with Aurora's revival, followed by a very triumphant wedding with lots of jumping joy and sparkly white outfits. Also, Puss in Boots and his lady-cat friend where there (yeah, it was weird). Up in the peanut gallery, several little girls were prancing about, trying to dance along to the choreography on stage.
All in all, the audience surely must have been swept up into the beauty and drama of the production, for during the final curtain call, not only was there abundant applause, but also booing of the malevolent Carabosse (because, you know, they thought the ballerina was actually evil!).