One of the ballet world’s most enduring and endearing productions receives a picture-book staging.
Tchaikovsky composed three great ballet scores, and that for The Sleeping Beauty is certainly beautifully enchanting. Productions fill the stage with sumptuous sets and costumes, and the dancers perform every range of steps from delicate to bravura. Unfortunately, none of this is evident in this version. The retelling of the classic fairy tale, told in the present tense, lacks poetic nuance. The mixed-media illustrations, albeit showing a diverse cast, are cartoonish and busy and do not portray anything much resembling ballet steps. The “Rose Adagio,” when the 16-year-old princess dances with four suitors and performs audience-thrilling balances, is only hinted at in the illustrations. Likewise, the very entertaining fairy-tale characters of the wedding scene are here just part of a crowded double-page spread. The fairies are often depicted floating overhead while barefooted. The gimmick of the book, a musical accompaniment, is actually 10 bursts of tinny sounds that are too brief to be of lasting value. At the end of the book, the author does describe the instrumentation for many of the scenes, but this information is inadequate.
Perfunctory and disappointing, this retelling of a classic fairy-tale ballet falls short. (note on Tchaikovsky, glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)