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Royal New Zealand Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty distinguishes itself visually

Filed by Jack Yan/October 29, 2011/23.31

Royal New Zealand Ballet
Ross Brown

The Sleeping Beauty has to be the most lavishly designed ballet that I’ve seen the Royal New Zealand Ballet perform in recent years. Unlike last year’s The Nutcracker, this version of The Sleeping Beauty hasn’t been cleverly transplanted into a 20th century setting, and it’s child-friendly with Catalabutte portrayed as a cat. However, there’s more than enough for traditionalists to revel in the performance, and the Vector Wellington Orchestra has faithfully interpreted the Tchaikovsky score.
   Beyond Greg Horsman’s excellent choreography, the pièces de rĂ©sistance have to be the sets and costumes, the brainchild of designer Gary Harris.
   As revealed in Lucire several months ago, Weta Workshop’s hand in the costumes is evident, and despite having seen preview images, I was still impressed by witnessing them live on stage at the St James on Friday. Jon Buswell’s lighting gave the sets life and a real mood—the audience applauded when Act 1, Scene II’s christening set was unveiled. Those who have seen The Sleeping Beauty before will still get a few surprises from this version, which I won’t spoil here, though the programme lets one of them out of the bag.
   Three years in the making, and with the support of Meridian Energy, The Sleeping Beauty is a must-see for not just ballet-lovers but anyone who appreciates great design and music.
   It runs October 28–30 and November 2–5 here in Wellington, travelling to other centres around New Zealand till December 8 (see the website for more details).
   Just as fascinating, but in a different way, is the exhibition Behind the Mask: Rediscovered Portraits of Katherine Mansfield at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace in Wellington. As usual, the insights into Mansfield’s life reveal more about one of the country’s most famous authors. The obvious portraits are shown—such as Anne Rice’s 1918 oil on canvas painting of the author, on loan from Te Papa—but those interested in early-twentieth-century printing will see works from Rhythm, published in 1912, on display.
   Mansfield was assistant editor on the magazine, and a caricature and drawing of her are among the exhibition, both dating from 1912. The exhibition runs till November 30—more details are at the Birthplace’s website.—Jack Yan, Publisher

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