You can see two Swan Lakes in Prague but the metropolis has only one Sleeping Beauty. The State Opera Prague staged it on Saturday, 23rd January 2010 with the subtitle "last tsar's daughter". Youri Vàmos, the choreographer of the Hungarian origin and the former director of Deutsche Oper am Rhein ballet in Düsseldorf, is not new in the Czech theatre world. His staging of Romeo and Juliet in the National Theatre or The Nutcracker that has been very popular for several seasons there as well have shown that Vàmos is not afraid to enrich the traditional pieces with new and interesting dancing vocabulary and changes in librettos that have really paid off many times.
Youri Vàmos is not the first and definitely not the last choreographer that tried to rewrite one of the classical and traditional ballet works. The most successful versions of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty are the choreography of John Neumeier, the director of Hamburg Ballet from 1978 with the prince who comes to the story of the Sleeping Beauty from our times in jeans or a legendary version of Swedish choreographer Mats Ek from 1996 who shifted his story to the topic of drugs when the thorn is substituted by the syringe, a hundred-year sleep is a synonym for intoxication and there is a man who saves a girl from the drug addiction instead of a prince who wakes the beauty up.
Vàmos assigned himself not a very easy task to keep a distance from the topic of a beauty who stings herself, falls asleep, wakes up thanks to the kiss and everyone lives happy ever after. He included the life and doom of the last tsar family in his Sleeping Beauty with artist Michael Scott (world premiere in Basel, 1992). The piece tells the story of Anna Anderson who lived with schizophrenic ideas that she is the last tsar's daughter Anastasia. We need to say that the story is very impressive and the though how to move the jewel of the classic ballet repertoire is promising...
The visiting soloists of Swedish Royal Ballet Andrea Kramešová and Filip Veverka were cast at the premiere evening. Both had a great performance from both technical and expressive points of view and they were the absolute top experience of the evening. We should also mention young dancer Veaceslav Burlac who played Alexei and he gave a fresh impression; his variations were danced with ease and certainty. There is no doubt that the niveau of the State Opera Prague ballet company is growing but a viewer would be more satisfied if almost all group scenes were more synchronized – they had a quite cramped effect. Choreography was very interesting and unusual as we know it with Vàmos. A connection of modern figures and traditional petipa steps that appear from time to time in the ballet can be nice extra elements. Choreography is sometimes less effective when it "does not correspond with music" that is compiled in an unlucky way in the score.
But the author was more interested in the story. Unfortunately, he stayed in the middle. Confusing changes of scenes do not offer any guidance to viewers who have not read the program about where the story takes place. Symbolic or at least direct hints are missing for a viewer who has problems to understand the piece.
The idea to conceive this ballet in a different way and include the story of Anna Anderson was fabulous. It is a pity that the final effect of this performance is quite confusing and unclear. The whole piece only pretends to be a pompous artwork and it gives a bad impression thanks to emptier and shabby environment of a tsar's court. But it all could be director's intention – the House of Romanov lost their fame at the end of their rule...
Translated by: Eliška Hulcová