Stuttgart shines with 'Sleeping Beauty'

April 29, 1992|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Stuttgart Ballet under the artistic direction of the legendary Marcia Haydee opened its two-week engagement last night at the Kennedy Center Opera House with its magical, full-length ballet "The Sleeping Beauty."

This three-act ballet with prologue created by Ms. Haydee in 1987 is a remarkable production.

Its wondrous, two-tiered courtyard set and period costumes by Jurgen Rose were totally integrated with soft, muted and sophisticated colors.

What keeps this work, which was modeled after Marius Petipa's ballet, from being a museum piece is Ms. Haydee's skillful blending of contemporary theatrics with the classical idiom. She's updated the work.

Yet it is the Stuttgart company that makes Ms. Haydee's ballet of good and evil resonate with dramatic relevance.

The first thing one notices about this ensemble is that the dancers interact with one another.

From the glorious pageantry of the prologue's christening scene, the cheery playfulness of Princess Aurora's birthday party to the joyous celebration of the wedding in the third act, the dancers are totally involved with the drama. They are an animated crowd of party-goers. They chat and flirt with one another. It's as if there were a subtext subtly weaving through the main story.

Ms. Haydee's tale of "The Sleeping Beauty" focuses on the conflicts between the "good" lilac fairy exquisitely danced by Catherine Batcheller and Carabosse, the evil fairy deliciously danced by Richard Cragun.

Throughout the ballet, the soft and gentle grace of Ms. Batcheller is juxtaposed against the wild and dramatically juicy role of Mr. Cragun. As the lilac fairy foils the deadly plans of Carabosse, we realize that the princess and the prince are but pawns in the games these supernaturals play.

At first, Annie Mayet, as Princess Aurora, seemed shy in her dancing. But by the final act, her dancing was electric.

Prince Desire, danced terrifically by Tamas Detrich, is given a vision of his princess by the lilac fairy in the second act. Surrounded by wood nymphs, the prince attempts to win the object of his desire.

Of course, there is the requisite happy ending -- a third act filled with wonderful dancing in the extravaganza of Aurora's wedding, wrapped in the stirring music of Tchaikovsky.

Tickets are available at the Kennedy Center box office for the remaining performances.

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