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Repertoire / Sleeping Beauty
Music by P.Tchaykovsky
Choreography by M.Petipa

Characters:

King Florestan XIVth
The Queen
Princess Aurora
Prince Desire
Catalabutte, Master of Ceremonies to King Florestan
Prince Cheri
Prince Charmant
Prince Fortune
Prince Fleur-des-pois
Evil Fairy Carabosse
Lilac Fairy
Good Fairies: Tenderness, Carelessness, Playfulness, Generoisity, Audacity
Princess Florine and Blue Bird
White Cat and Puss in Boots
Little Red Riding Hood and GreyWolf
Cinderella and Prince
Ladis of the court, rnights, pages, hunts-men,
retinue of the Lilac Fairy, retinue of Fairy Carabosse, nurses

The famous ballet-fairy play "Sleeping Beauty"(1890) is like a daydream, reviving the Golden Age of Lois XIV. The plot of the ballet, adopted by its author from Charles Perrault"s fairy-tale of the same name, was French, and so was the producer Marius Petipa (1818-1910), while the Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was to write the music. He hadn't applied to ballet music since the failure of his "Swan Lake", but the offer from the initiator of "Sleeping Beauty" production, the director of the Imperial Theatres, prince Ivan Vsevolozhsky(1835-1909), was accepted by him with pleasure.

libretto

Prologue.

A_Room_inside_the_Palace.

KingFlorestan and his Queen are celebrating the christening of theirdaughter, Princess Aurora. The celebrations are suddenly interruptedand Catalabutte, the Master of Ceremonies responsible for compiling theguest list, realizes that he has neglected to invite the FairyCarabosse. Carabosse appears with her entourage and swearts that shewill be avenged on them all, predicting that one day Aurora will prickher finger and die. The Lilac Fairy appears and revokes the curse,promising that Aurora will not die but only fall asleep, to be awakenedby a prince’s kiss after a hundred years. For fear of Aurora coming toany harm, King Florestan declares that, on pain of death, no sharpneedles are ever to be allowed at court.

 

Act_I

The_Palace_Gardens.

Thevillagers are celebrating Princess Aurora’s sixteenth birthday withgarlands and baskets of flowers. At the birthday celebrations, fourprinces seek her hand in marriage, and she dances with each of them. Atthe height of the celebrations, Carabosse, disguised as an old woman,gives Aurora a spindle. ThePrincess dances with the spindle and, pricking her finger, collapses asCarabosse reveals her true identity. Once more the Lilac Fairy appears,and as the Princess is carried outdoors, casts a spell of sleep overthe whole court.

 

Akt_II

The_Forest.

Onehundred years later, Prince Florimund and his courtiers are huntingdeer. Suddenly the Prince becomes melancholy, and sends his retinue tofollow the hunt so that he may be alone. In his solitude he has avision of Princess Aurora. Then,directed by the Lilac Fairy, the Prince journeys through the forest toKing Florestan’s palace. There he finds Aurora asleep, and awakens herwith a kiss. The whole court comes to life, and the King and Queenapprove the betrothal of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund.

 

The_Palace_ Ballroom.

Thecourt celebrates the wedding of the Prince and Princess with a greatball. The fairy-tale characters of the Bluebird and Puss in Boots alsocome to pay their respects with special dances. Finally, the Prince andPrincess dance together, and in a final celebration are joined by thewhole court.


 



history

Thefamous ballet-fairy play “Sleeping Beauty” (1890) is like a daydream,reviving the Golden Age of Lois XIV. The plot of the ballet, adopted byits author from Charles Perrault’s fairy-tale of the same name, wasFrench, and so was the producer Marius Petipa (1818 – 1910), while theRussian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was to write the music.He hadn’t applied to ballet music since the failure of his “SwanLake”,but the offer from the initiator of “Sleeling Beauty” production, thedirector of the Imperial Theatres, prince Ivan Vsevolozhsky (1835 –1909), was accepted by him with pleasure. And taking into considerationPetipa’s desires, set in his plan-order, which he used to give toballet composers (and in which the choreographer expounded thesynopsis, explained the character, tempos and the duration of themusical numbers, etc.), Tchaikovsky composed one of his brightestscores. Moreover the venerable composer wasn’t very much confused by“freedom in bondage”, offered to him. Vsevolozhsky himself designedcolorful costumes of the fairytale characters.

 “SleepingBeauty” is a dream of two rather elderly men (the choreographer was 72and the composer was 50 years old) about the ideal harmony of theUniverse, in which Petipa believed and Tchaikovsky wanted so much tobelieve. Starting to create the ballet, they pursued different objects.The former, remembering his youth, brought fame to his motherland –fine France.The latter, on the contrary, tried to seek in this utopia the refugefrom his old age and the death coming nearer. Their work was preparedfor the long and lucky destiny on stage: up to now the ballet has beenpreserved much better than the other works of the classical heritage.It has been considered to be “the encyclopedia of the classical dance”for a long time already and it is regularly mentioned on the play-billsof the most important theatres all over the world.

 Inthe presence of its clear and logical plot, “Sleeping Beauty” is amysterious ballet. This “child of love” was born with a discrepant,dual soul. It is based on the myth about the cyclic development of allbeing, devoted to four mystery moments of human life: birth, majority,marriage and death. But a fairytale ballet should have the happy end.The ballet was concluded by a grandiose apotheosis “Gloire de fees”(“To the Glory of Fairies”), celebrating radiant Apollo, whose part inthe court ballet was played by Lois XIV himself, nicknamed as The SunKing. And, what is more, the classical dance itself is the moststriking display of the principle of Apollo and the spiritualverticality in ballet. In “Sleeping Beauty” the immortal art celebratedthe shattering victory over the death. There are a lot of symbols andallegories in “Sleeping Beauty”. Even the names of the main charactersare expressive: Princess Aurora (the morning dawn), Prince Desire(desired; besides, so was called the only sweetheart of Tchaikovsky,singer Desire Arto), King Florestan XIV…

 Still in cradle, Aurorawas presented with different human attributes – tenderness,playfulness, boldness and coquetry – by the fairies. Only the seventhfairy – the old Carabosse – came to the christening celebrationuninvited. A seven is a magic figure. In numerology this is the numberof Saturn, which personifies Chronos, devouring his children. Carabossegave Auroraa terrible gift – the death. Neither the Lilac Fairy’s gift (centenarydream instead of non-existence), mollifying the terrible damnation, northe King’s order to do away with all the distaffs in the kingdom canrepeal the predestinations for the new-born princess. But, havingfallen asleep as a girl, the princess wakes up as a bride. Love in“Sleeping Beauty”, like art, defeats the death and time, giving birthto the harmonious Cosmos out of the chaos of subconscious wishes.

 Inthe first act four princes the grooms, who symbolize four elements,temperaments, nations or the four cardinal points (the whole worldconditionally), in the famous adagio with a rose give the princess,having attained her majority, this symbol of Eros. But it was only thedesired Prince Desire to be fated to awake “the sleeping beauty” with akiss. Fairytale heroes, representatives of the mineral kingdom (fairiesof Gold, Sapphires, Silver, Diamonds) and of the flora and faunaarrived as guests at their truly universal wedding. In this balletthere is little of what depends on the personal features of thecharacters, the godchildren of the winged astral creature – the LilacFairy. The outcome of the affairs is determined by the myth, and thatgives some reserve and metaphysics to “Sleeping Beauty” and somepsychological inertness to its characters.

 Petipaand Tchaikovsky interpreted the plot in different ways, having realizedit in dance and music. Wise admiration for the universal course ofevents is peculiar to the choreographer, and that paradoxically goeswith his native enthusiasm before the fairytale characters. For himAurora the ballerina is the main character of the ballet. He presentedher with the splendid gifts – three adagios, the chain of variationsand entree. Dancers for Petipa are forever young fairies, as the oldage and ballet are incompatible. It was no mere chance that FairyCarabosse was deprived of dancing (according to the tradition of theXVII century this part was played by a man). In Petipa’s aestheticsPrince Desire is just a gallant partner to a lady, who held her in theduets, but didn’t dance on his own. The only dancing male character inthe ballet is the Blue Bird (this part was masterly played by EnricoCecchetti). All kinds of dance can be seen in “Sleeping Beauty”: ladiesand cavaliers of the court performed in the shoes on heels with bowsand buckles, numerous soloists and the ballerina demonstrated “irontips of the toes” and all expressed themselves by pantomimic gestures.This ballet is like a field of precious stones. Here is “a flower offive petals” of the fairies’ variations in the prologue (like a lilacblossom of five petals – a symbol of good luck), the ensembles of maidsof honour, corps-de-ballet of nereids and the suite of the ancientdances in the forest scene, the peasant waltz with garlands andbaskets, the dances of the fairytale characters at the wedding. Balletwas Petipa’s religion and dance was a rite, with which he prayed tomastery and art. It was as if the choreographer initiated in thepatterns of dance the majestic and symmetrical architectural parkensembles of Versailles.And each dancing “bush” or “flowerbed” needed thorough care. “SleepingBeauty” still strikes with the grandiosity of dancing “baroque” as wellas the refinement of its smallest details in rococo. The port-de-brasin female dancing are at time unexpected: sometimes with theimperatively pointed forefinger (as it is in the variation of FairyViolent), sometimes like weaving the most delicate lace (as it is inthe wedding pas-de-deux of Aurora and Desire). 23-year-old Italian virtuoso Charlotta Brianza performed the part of Aurora at the premiere in Marinsky Theatre on January 3, 1890. Her partner was the best Prince of Petersburg stage Pavel Gerdt, who was twice as older than his lady.

 Itis customary to consider that Petipa and Tchaikovsky were all in alltogether in work. Formally speaking, they were, but it is doubtfulwhether they understood each other completely. Certainly, the park of Versailles and the gardens in the environs of Petersburgwere made following one and the same model. But the atmosphere of theseplaces is rather different. As for Petipa, he was generally indifferentto the nature, whose destination is just to be radiant with everlastingbeauty and to be the pleasant ornament for eyes. Quite different isTchaikovsky, who was oversensitive in perception of any naturalphenomenon and who lent an attentive ear to the secret wishes of hisown soul. The forest scene of the ballet, Desire’s hurrying after thevision of Aurora, in other words, after her soul, the panorama oftraveling, the violin entr’acte frequently cut off, the musicalcharacteristic of the Lilac Fairy can be a striking demonstration ofthat. In spite of Versaillescolour of the ballet, the composer took his heroes away into “the otherworlds”, where the power of all-powerful Carabosse came to end.Defeated in the ballet, she later returned to him in “The Queen ofSpades”, in the Symphony no.6…

 In the presence of all its contradictions “Sleeping Beauty” is a grandiose apotheosis of the ballet of the XIX century.   
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