THE STORY & HISTORY
Ballet music by Tchaikovsky, Choreography by Petipa.
The History of Sleeping Beauty
"The Sleeping Beauty," a ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is a captivating masterpiece consisting of a prologue and three acts. Completed in 1889 as Tchaikovsky's Opus 66, this ballet stands as his second-longest work, spanning approximately 160 minutes. Ivan Vsevolozhsky developed the original scenario based on Perrault's "La belle au bois dormant" or "The Beauty Sleeping in the Forest," while Marius Petipa served as the first choreographer. Since its premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 15, 1890, "The Sleeping Beauty" has remained one of the most renowned ballets in history.
The Sleeping Beauty ballet came about when Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg, approached Tchaikovsky on May 25, 1888, with the idea of creating a ballet adaptation of the story of Undine. Eventually, they settled on Charles Perrault's "La Belle au bois dormant" as the inspiration for Tchaikovsky's musical composition. Despite the lukewarm reception of his previous ballet, "Swan Lake" which later became his most famous, Tchaikovsky eagerly accepted the commission.
Tchaikovsky drew inspiration from the Brothers Grimm's rendition (above) of Perrault's tale, wherein the Princess's parents survive the hundred-year slumber to celebrate her wedding with the Prince. Vsevolozhsky incorporated additional characters from Perrault's stories into the ballet, such as Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Bluebird, Bluebeard, Ricky of the Tuft, and Tom Thumb. Notably, the ballet also featured characters from other French fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast, Pretty Goldilocks, and The White Cat.
Marius Petipa, the ballet master of the Imperial Ballet, assumed the role of choreographer and provided meticulous instructions regarding the musical requirements. Tchaikovsky swiftly embarked on his new work at Frolovskoye, initiating initial sketches in the winter of 1888 and commencing orchestration on May 30, 1889.
Themes and Motifs
The ballet's central focus revolves around the two opposing forces of good, embodied by the Lilac Fairy, and evil, represented by Carabosse. Each force is assigned a leitmotif that permeates the entire ballet, serving as a crucial thread within the underlying plot. However, Act III deviates from these motifs and instead emphasizes the individual characters through various court dances.
Upon its premiere, "The Sleeping Beauty" received more favorable reviews than "Swan Lake." However, Tchaikovsky never had the opportunity to witness his work's immediate success in theaters outside of Russia, as he passed away in 1893. By 1903, "The Sleeping Beauty" had become the second most popular ballet in the Imperial Ballet's repertoire, with 200 performances in just a decade, surpassed only by the Petipa/Pugni production of "The Pharaoh's Daughter."
It wasn't until 1921, in London, that the ballet finally gained widespread acclaim and secured a permanent position in the classical repertoire. In 1999, the Mariinsky Ballet reconstructed the original 1890 production, meticulously reproducing the sets and costumes. While the 1951 Kirov production by Konstantin Sergeyev is available on DVD/Video, the "authentic" 1999 version was never commercially released.
The story begins at the christening of Princess Aurora. There an evil fairy named Carabosse whose invitation had been forgotten,get angry and curses the baby princess to die on her sixteenth birthday by pricking her finger on a spindle. However, the Lilac Fairy intervenes and changes the curse to a hundred-year sleep, where she will be awoken by a prince's kiss.
Years later, on her sixteenth birthday, Aurora pricks her finger on a spindle, and the curse takes effect, putting the entire kingdom to sleep. After one hundred years, Prince Désiré meets the Lilac Fairy and has a vision of Princess Aurora. He falls in love and asks to be taken to her. The Lilac Fairy guides him through the forest and shows him Aurora, asleep in the castle. He kisses her, awakening her and breaking the curse. The entire kingdom awakens, and Aurora and Prince Désiré marry. The ballet ends with a grand celebration.