Les Ballets de Monte Carlo

December 27, 2002

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo dancer Bernice Coppieters played the dreaming damsel in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s revised Sleeping Beauty, La Belle.
Hans Gerritsen, courtesy Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo

Grimaldi Forum
Monte Carlo, Monaco

December 27, 2001?January 4, 2002

Reviewed by Karyn Bauer

The story line of the classic ballet masterpiece The Sleeping Beauty, staged by Marius Petipa to an original score by Tchaikovsky, has little to do with French author Charles Perrault’s initial 1697 tale. Perrault’s invention of the barbaric Queen Mother Carabosse, whose jealous rage leads to her dreadful death, was left out of Petipa’s ballet in favor of a happy marriage ceremony between the Sleeping Beauty and her handsome prince.

When Jean-Christophe Maillot accepted the challenge of recreating this emotional masterpiece for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, his ultimate desire was to bring back the dark elements of this otherwise enchanting tale, while at the same time respecting the euphoric and timeless love story that it has become.

Maillot had contemplated staging The Sleeping Beauty for the past ten years. The result was La Belle, a captivating new interpretation of this classical piece that seduced audiences of all ages during its year-end premiere at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.

The drama began with an initial confrontation between the evil Queen Mother Carabosse, brilliantly interpreted by the expressive Gaëtan Morlotti, and the dreamy young prince, Chris Roelandt, whose passivity was a source of rage for the Queen. Only the Lilac Fairy, very delicately interpreted by Paola Cantalupo, could pull him out of his reverie by leading him to Bernice Coppieters, the sleeping princess.

>The first act was absolutely sublime, bringing to life the joyous past of the princess as recounted by the Lilac Fairy to the curious prince. The choreography was quick, exact, and playful, while the extravagantly colorful costumes, designed by Philippe Guillotel, were a throwback to the elaborate scene of Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland and her ultimate meeting with Glenda, the Good Witch.

The princess’s long sleep, as represented through her astonishing dance inside a larger-than-life transparent crystal ball, ends with the arrival of the prince on this brilliantly lit white stage, designed by the artist Ernst Pignon-Ernst. Unfortunately, the props had a tendency to override the impact of the choreography during this turning point of the story. Their meeting culminated in a sultry duet, punctuated by an arousing kiss that was memorable for its longevity.

As promised by Maillot, however, the piece closes dramatically when the evil Carabosse, in a fit of jealous rage, plunges to her death in a vat of carnivorous snakes. Although the story line remained faithful to Perrault’s original version, the score was reduced and adapted by conductor Nicholas Brochot, with this final scene occurring to the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s dramatic Romeo and Juliet.

Over 11,000 spectators filled the theater during its eight-day run, making La Belle the biggest success in Maillot’s nine-year history with the company.