Victorian Opera’s 2017 season is united around the theme of fables – stories, fairy tales and legends from a variety of eras and sources. Ottorino Respighi’s rarely performed and barely recorded The Sleeping Beauty(La bella dormente nel bosco) is a short three-act opera that was written specifically for Vittorio Podrecca’s world famous I Piccoli marionette company in Rome. It premiered in 1922, and was so popular that I Piccoli continued to perform it for twenty years.

Victorian Opera’s  The Sleeping Beauty. Photos © Charlie Kinross

In this production, marionettes are replaced with stunning larger-than-life-sized puppets designed and constructed by Melbourne artist Joe Blanck’s company A Blanck Canvas, whose clients include Cirque Du Soleil, Disney and Universal. They are worked by a team of human puppeteers, and ‘sung’ by Victorian Opera singers on stage beside the puppets (vocal parts were sung from the orchestra pit in the marionette production). This is slightly disconcerting initially, and amounts to many bodies on stage, but it’s a credit to director Nancy Black that all quickly becomes seamlessly interwoven and the smallish stage never seems cluttered. Black and set designers Bluebottle make effective use of...