THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
Full-length Ballet in Three Acts
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovski
Choreography by Marius Petipa
Stage version and editorial by Elena Radchenko, Alexander Daev (choreography assistant)
Libretto: Marius Petipa and Ivan Vsevolojsky after stories by Charles Perrault
Sets: Lev Solodovnikov
Costumes: Elena and Sergey Radchenko
Lighting by Marina Borodina
The Sleeping Beauty -is a ballet in a prologue and three acts, first performed in 1890. The music was by Pyotr Tchaikovsky .The score was completed in 1889, and is the second of his three ballets. The original scenario was conceived by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, and is based on Charles Perrault’s La Belle au bois dormant. The choreographer of the original production was Marius Petipa. The premiere performance took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1890. The work has become one of the classical repertoire’s most famous ballets.
King Florestan the XIVth declares a grand christening ceremony to be held in honor of the birth of his daughter, Princess Aurora named after the dawn. An entourage of six fairies are invited to the Christening to be godmothers to the child. They are the Candide Fairy, the Coulante Fairy, the Miettes Fairy, the Canari Fairy, the Violente Fairy and—most importantly— the Lilac Fairy, who is the last to arrive. As the fairies are happily granting gifts of honesty, grace, prosperity, song and generosity, they are suddenly interrupted by the arrival of the wicked fairy Carabosse, who is furious at the King’s failure to invite her to the ceremony. The King and Queen begin to remonstrate, and the Master of Ceremonies, Catallabutte, intervenes to take responsibility, whereupon Carabosse rips off his wig, laughing. With spite and rage, Carabosse
declares her curse on Princess Aurora: she will prick her finger on her sixteenth birthday and die. But all is not lost: the Lilac Fairy, fortunately, has not yet granted her gift to the Princess. She acknowledges that Carabosse’s power is immense and she cannot completely reverse the curse. However, she declares, though the Princess shall indeed prick her finger, she will not die, but instead sleep for 100 years until she is awakened by the kiss of a prince. Carabosse departs, and the curtain falls as the good fairies surround the cradle.
Act I opens at Aurora’s 16th birthday party. Brightly clad peasant girls dance a divertissement with flower garlands. Holding the arched garlands overhead, they dance in multiple circles, weaving in and out to a waltz tempo. All await the arrival of the Princess Aurora. The ballerina princess bursts onto the scene, dancing a brief and vivacious solo in the manner of a carefree young girl. She is then ceremoniously introduced to the four princes who have come to seek her hand. The Rose Adagio, the famous pas d’action expressing a young girl’s blossoming into womanhood, is about to start. Aurora begins the adagio in with one leg raised and bent behind her, one curved arm raised overhead. Some have read in this “attitude” pose, which Aurora repeats often, a kind of gentle questioning or youthful uncertainty. One after the other, each of the suitors turns and displays her while she maintains her pose. She releases the hand of the suitor supporting her, and raising both of her arms overhead, balances momentarily, as if tentatively testing her abilities. She then takes the arm of the next prince and begins the sequence again. After a brief interlude in which the princess dances alone, she returns to accept a rose from each of the suitors (hence the title, Rose Adagio). She pirouettes slowly and accepts each rose; one prince supports her while the next offers his flower. At the end of the Adagio, she returns to her attitude position, and supported in turn by each prince, she again releases her hand and balances for a little longer each time. Finally, as she frees her hand from the clasp of the fourth prince, she again releases her hand and balances for a little longer each time. Finally as she frees her hand from the clasp of the fourth prince, the curved attitude straightens into a sharp, arabesque extension. She retains her balance poised confidently on one toe, as if she has visibly come of age before the eyes of the adoring suitors. The Princess continues dancing a joyful solo until her attention is suddenly distracted by a strange woman dressed in black who offers her an unfamiliar object. Before anyone can stop her, Aurora seizes the dreaded spindle. The unwary Princess pricks her finger, grows weaker, and falls to the floor in a swoon. Just as those assembled lapse into despair, the Lilac Fairy steps forward. Waving her wand soothingly, she reminds them that the Princess will only sleep and she casts everyone into deep slumber along with her. The Lilac Fairy summons a forest of thorns, thickets, and enormous shrubbery to grow around the sleeping court.
Scene One: The Vision
Act II takes us to a neighboring kingdom 100 years later. Prince Charming and his lord and lady friends are out for a hunt. The cheerful retinue amuse themselves with dances and games, but the Prince is tired of everyday diversions and stays behind to wander about alone. Suddenly the Lilac Fairy floats in on a boat with gossamer sails. She offers to show the melancholy Prince a vision of Aurora. The Prince is utterly enchanted by the sight of the Princess dancing lyrically and romantically amidst a tableau of fairies and nymphs, bathed in a bluish light. He pursues her but can only hold the Princess in his arms for a moment before she eludes him and disappears. She is after all only a spectral image conjured up by the Lilac Fairy. The Fairy offers to take the Prince across the lake, through the dense and tangled forest, to the castle where the real Princess lies asleep.
Scene Two: The Awakening
The Prince approaches the canopied bed set on a high platform and, as the music heightens, he plants the awakening kiss. Aurora greets him. The King and Quenn appear from either side of the stage and welcome the awakened Aurora and her Prince with joy.
The final act ushers us into a sumptuous hall, graced with statuesque columns and a circular gold staircase crowned by a blue sky. It is here that the Royal wedding of Prince Charming and Princess Aurora will take place. A full series of celebratory divertissements is performed by the inhabitants of fairyland. Puss ‘n Boots, Bluebeard and his wife, Goldilocks and a Bear, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf all dance. A highlight is the pas de deux of the soaring Blue Bird and his Princess. First dancing together and then separately, they compete with each other spinning and fluttering in sparkling flight, sometimes jumping so high they seem virtually suspended in the air. The man’s variation in particular, which features many beating jumps while he arches his body backwards and forward (brises voles) is one of the most famous and demanding in the international repertory. The Bluebird’s Dance ends with the female lifted on the male’s shoulder. The celebration then climaxes with the Grand Pas de Deux danced by the Prince and Princess. They are regal, formal and confident dancing together. Prince Charming supports his bride’s pirouettes and displays her long extensions and secure balances. The Prince jumps and spins during his solo and the Princess spins on pointe with even surer mastery than she showed in the Rose Adagio. Finally, Aurora whirls into the Prince’s arms and dives toward the floor; the Prince catches her around the waist and supports her in the famous inverted pose known as the fish dive. All join the bride and groom for a spirited mazurka and the Lilac Fairy, standing in their midst, bestows her blessing on the happy couple.