The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty is one of the classical repertoire’s most famous ballets. The libretto, written by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, was originally based on Charles Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. In the final version, Vsevolozhsky decided to include other characters from Perrault’s stories and also elements from The Brothers Grimm story, Little Briar Rose. The music was a collaboration between composer Peter Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa. Petipa had a clear vision for how the music should be written and the two worked very closely together throughout the process.

The first performance of The Sleeping Beauty took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1890. With influences from the french, many scenes resemble the court ballets in Louis the XIV’s time, including the patterns of the corps de ballet, the intricate solos and pas de deux work. The complete ballet is four hours long including intermissions and is almost always cut. After this performance it was clear to audience members that this production was a masterpiece.

Publicity shot of the original cast of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, St Petersburg: Mariinsky Theater, 1890. Carlotta Brianza starred as Aurora.

The story begins with a celebration of the birth of Princess Aurora. A wicked fairy, who is upset because she was not invited to the party, places a curse on the Princess. She says that she will prick her finger on her 16th birthday and die. But the Lilac Fairy is able to change the curse so that the Princess will not die but will sleep for 100 years and then awakens when kissed by a prince. The whole kingdom will also sleep with Aurora and awake when she does. On the Princess’s 16 birthday Aurora does prick her finger despite the King trying to rid the Kingdom of all spindles. One is still given to the Princess as a present. Everyone falls asleep to be awaken 100 years later when a Prince finds the Kingdom, sees the beautiful Princess and awakens her with a kiss.