Angel Corella’s Sleeping Beauty at the Academy of Music

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Philadelphia Ballet continues its season with the classic Tchaikovsky ballet Sleeping Beauty at the Academy of Music until March 12. Artistic Director Angel Corella, himself once an international ballet star, has added to and tweaked Petipa’s and Ivanov’s choreography. 
This Sleeping Beauty looks smashing with swoonable set design by Michael Eagen, delicious costumes by Anne Armit and Shannon Lovelace, and striking lighting by Sasha Anistratova. Of course, the live orchestra and fantastic dancing from the entire company makes this a must-see event for balletomane and tyro alike. 
This classic tale of a royal party to celebrate the birth of the Princess Royal goes very badly. Somehow, the most memorable fairy, the Evil Carabosse, is not invited, and like every evil fairy you have ever known, there is Hell to pay for the insult. How could any courtier not remember her is a puzzle indeed. Her snit is such that she hexes the tot to die at age sixteen. Fear not! The Lilac Fairy has decreed that rather than death, the innocent beauty will sleep, not die, until a male beauty of impeccable aspect and noble birth kisses her chastely, awakening her from her thrall. The impossibly talented and impossibly lovely Oksana Maslova was tonight’s Princess. The impossibly handsome and robust Sterling Baca was her rescuing Prince Desire. Every inch of Mr. Baca’s aspect was noble. To gaze upon him made the majesty of the Alps, the Grand Canyon, and Alaskan frontiers blush in comparison. Once the teenaged Princess pricked her finger, many in the audience became Ms. Maslova. She was so compelling as Princess Aurora. Undoubtedly, a sensitive soul like  Tchaikovsky must also have identified with her. Tchaikovsky’s beloved score did not please the Tsarist elite of his day, which may puzzle us today. 
Tonight’s Lilac Fairy was the remarkable Sydney Dolan. The evil human-hating Carabosse tonight was the accomplished Samantha Dunster. 
The audience held its collective breath as the lovely Sterling Baca kissed the lovely Oksana Maslova from her spell, resulting in another spectacle, the wedding of the Prince and Princess, with guests from popular fairy tales come to entertain the court. Sensitive males in the audience could swear that the Prince of Desire had awakened them from their reverie. Tchaikovsky himself may have never found his Prince, but Princess Aurora did.
The company danced with a singularity of excellence from the stars, to the Garland Dancers, to Jack Thomas as Gold, to the superb Bluebird of Austin Eyler, to the Wolf (in a duet with Little Red Riding Hood) interpreted by the stylish Federico D’Ortenzi.
This Friday evening performance was viewed by dozens of tots, many of whom were well behaved, while some were not. Leaving the theater, the audience was refreshed into reality by yet another blinding rainstorm, reminding us to gather our rosebuds while we may, and to see The Sleeping Beauty while it is in Philadelphia.
Angel Corella’s The Sleeping Beauty will be at Philadelphia’s historic Academy of Music only until March 12. Next will be a Balanchine Program, March 16-19, then Coppelia, May 11-14. 
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