Benjamin Britten never reached the ‘difficult second ballet’ phase, because his first attempt left behind problems of its own.
As a postscript to the 100th anniversary celebrations of the composer’s birth, Birmingham Royal Ballet stage this lavish revival as a newly-imagined tribute.
But the central problem of a dotty story (even by classical ballet standards) with an over-abundance of composition and dance styles, makes for a production that is more mystifying than orientally mystical.
A wicked sister has been dropped from the story altogether, but an evil stepmother remains and, naturally, a beautiful daughter – danced to delicate perfection on this night by Jenna Roberts.
The object of her affections though is a salamander prince, an amphibious creature that is actually her brother.
The second act cannot help itself but come an over-long, hallucinatory experience set amidst earth, air, fire and water, while no-one seems yet quite sure when the third act should end.
Amidst bewilderment though there is something especially beguiling about William Bracewell’s sinuous salamander character, and you won’t quickly wipe the sinful smile from Samara Downs’ face, blessed as she is with a set of exotic setpiece dances for the evil Epine.