Having already given us most of the other best-known golden oldies of ballet, public television's "Live From Lincoln Center" series last night brought us American Ballet Theatre's "The Sleeping Beauty," from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. It's still mind-boggling to reflect that the production was seen by more people in one night than it could be in a decades's worth of stage performances. But the telecast also reminded us of how far the small-screen experience remains from a live presence, especially with a ballet like "Sleeping Beauty," which covers so much of the stage so much of the time with so many performers.
From the video standpoint, it looked as if the directors couldn't decide whether they wanted the cameras to be observers of the action or participants in it. There was so much panning, zooming and cutting that except for solos and duets, none of the dancing was seen long enough or whole enough to be really seen at all.
Compared to the ultra-refined but lethargic performance by the Royal Ballet seen via satellite transmission last December, last night's ABT account was stylistically ragged but far livelier and more dramatically engaging, even though the casting - with Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones as Aurora and her savior prince - was not ideal. Kirk Peterson's Bluebird, however, was outstanding. On balance, an erratic but enjoyable performance.