Momoko Hirata dazzles in Birmingham’s sumptuous Sleeping Beauty

Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome
February 13, 2018

Phil Preece

Sir Peter Wright’s 1984 production of The Sleeping Beauty claims to be as near as possible to the original 1890 Russian production for the Imperial Theatre, using the work of contemporary choreographers Lev Ivanov and the legendary Marius Petipa. It shows. The production of the work pays its homage to the classical tradition in full measure with a lavish setting that transports us straight to the blazing candlelight and antique mirrored salons of a Versailles-style court. The result is a visual and balletic triumph.

Right from the sumptuous christening scene of the Prologue through the arrival of the forgotten guest from hell (literally), the wicked fairy Carabosse, to curse the child, played here with superbly satanic hauteur by Nao Sakuma, we are held in complete fairy-tale thrall. Fast-forward to Act One where Princess Aurora is enjoying her coming of age birthday and four suitors present themselves during the exquisite Rose Adagio, but Carabosse reappears to make good her vow and the Lilac Fairy has to step in with hundred years’ sleep. Act Two makes a delightfully light-hearted, even comic hunting scene as the perfect prince (here Mathias Dingman on top form) disports himself until led by the Lilac Fairy (the enchanting Jenna Roberts) to discover the sleeping Aurora in her bower and awaken her with, what else, a kiss.

Nao Sakuma as Carabosse with Artists of Birmingham Royal BalletPhoto Bill Cooper
Nao Sakuma as Carabosse with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet
Photo Bill Cooper

The fourth act makes no sense at all unless you guess that the original aristocratic audience would have dined well between the courses and the wedding celebrations are the sumptuous dessert of the ballet. Relaxed and good humoured they too would have indulged this exquisite final interlude created purely for pleasure, decorated with figures from the very oldest nursery tales, Little Red Riding Hood and her Big Bad Wolf, Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat, and finally the spectacular choreographic firework display of the Bluebird and the Enchanted Princess, glittering with love evermore.

On the first night of the season, Momoko Hirata excelled even by her own high standards to make the impossible-seeming steps of the final pas de deux with her newly found prince look like a stroll in the park. Overall, this Sleeping Beauty oozes sumptuous luxury; no touch of richness or grandeur is missing, costumes, set, lighting, performance, just as it should be. We can really believe we are at a fairytale court in the most powerful of all stories recreated as a great classic ballet filled with aristocratic grandeur its most lavish. A marvellous production giving full value to this most aristocratic of all classical ballets.

The Sleeping Beauty is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 17th February then touring. Visit for full details.

For details of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s recently announced 2018-19 season, click here.