The Sleeping Beauty (ballet)

The Sleeping Beauty (ballet)

The Sleeping Beauty ( _ru. Спящая Красавица, "Spyashchaya Krasavitsa") is a ballet in a prologue and three acts, Opus 66, 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 is widely regarded as the composer's finest ballet scoreFact|date=February 2008, and has become one of the classical repertoire's most famous ballets.


Composition history

Tchaikovsky was approached by the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg, Ivan Vsevolozhsky on 25 May 1888 about a possible ballet adaptation on the subject of the story of "Undine". It was later decided that Charles Perrault's "La Belle au bois Dormant" would be the story for which Tchaikovsky would compose the music for Marius Petipa's ballet. Tchaikovsky did not hesitate to accept the commission, although he was aware that his only previous ballet, "Swan Lake", met with little enthusiasm at that stage of his career. The ballet scenario Tchaikovsky worked on was based on the Brothers Grimm version of Perrault's work entitled 'Dornröschen', which with the Princess' parents (the King and the Queen) having survived the 100 years sleep to celebrate the Princess' wedding to the Prince although Vsevolozhsky wisely incorporated some of Perrault's characters from other stories into the ballet, such as Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood. Regardless, Tchaikovsky was happy to inform the Director of the Imperial Theatre that he had great pleasure studying the work and had come away with adequate inspiration to do it justiceFact|date=February 2008.

The choreographer was the great Marius Petipa, unrivaled Balletmaster of the Imperial Ballet, who wrote a very detailed list of instructions as to the musical requirements. Tchaikovsky worked quickly on the new work at his home in Frolovskoye where he began initial sketches in the winter of 1888 and began orchestration on the work on 30 May 1889.

The ballet's focus was undeniably on the two main conflicting forces of good (the Lilac Fairy) and evil (Carabosse), where a leitmotif representing both of them runs through the entire ballet serving as an important thread to the underlying plot. Act 3 of the work, however, takes a complete break from the two motifs and instead places focus on the individual characters of the various court dances.

Performance history

St. Petersburg Premiere (World Premiere)

*"Date": 15 January 1890
*"Place": Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
*"Balletmaster": Marius Petipa
*"Conductor": Riccardo Drigo
*"Scene Designers": Mikhail Bocharov, Henrich Levogt, Ivan Andreyev, Matvey Shishkov
*"Costumes": Ivan Vsevolozhsky

Moscow Premiere

*"Date": 17 January 1899
*"Place": Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre
*"Balletmaster": Aleksandr Gorsky
*"Conductor": Andrey Arends
*"Scene Designers": Anatoliy Geltser, Karl Valts (Waltz)

Other Notable Productions

*1896, Milan, La Scala, staged by Giorgio Saracco, Carlotta Brianza as Aurora
*1921, London, Alhambra Theatre, as "The Sleeping Princess", Dyagilev production, staged by Nikolay Sergeyev, scenes by Léon Bakst
*1937, Philadelphia, staged by Catherine Littlefield

Original Interpreters

Tsar Alexander III and his family were present during one of the general rehearsals. Upon leaving, he made the simple remark 'Very nice,' which seemed to have irritated Tchaikovsky, who had likely expected a more favorable responseFact|date=February 2008.

The ballet's premiere received more favorable accolades than Swan Lake from the press but Tchaikovsky never had the luxury of being able to witness his work become an instant success in theatres outside of Russia. He died in 1893. By 1903 Sleeping Beauty was the second most popular ballet in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet (the Petipa/Pugni "The Pharoah's Daughter" was first), having been performed 200 times in only 10 years.

A production mounted at the La Scala in Milan did not arouse much interest and it was not until 1921 that, in London, the ballet finally gained wide acclaim and eventually a permanent place in the classical repertoire. In 1999, the Kirov Ballet reconstructed the original 1899 production, including reproductions of the original sets and costumes. Although the 1951 Kirov production by Konstantin Sergeyev is available on DVD/Video, the 1999 "authentic" version is only available in short excerpts as of 2007.

"The Sleeping Beauty" is Tchaikovsky's longest ballet, lasting nearly four hours at full length - counting the intermissions. Without intermissions (as it appears on several CD sets), it lasts nearly three hours. It is nearly always cut.


*"Strings": Violins I, Violins II, Violas, Cellos, Double Basses
*"Woodwinds": Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets (B-flat, A), 2 Bassoons
*"Brass": 4 Horns (F), 2 Cornets (B-flat, A), 2 Trumpets (B-flat, A), 3 Trombones, Tuba
*"Percussion": Timpani, Triangle, Tambourine, Side Drum, Cymbals, Bass Drum, Tam-tam, Glockenspiel
*"Other": Harp, Piano

Roles and setting


"The Royal Court":

*King Florestan XIV
*Princess Aurora, their daughter
*Catalabutte, the master-of-ceremonies
*Courtiers, maids of honor, pages, lackeys

"The Fairies":

*Candide (Candor)
*Coulante, Fleur de farine (Flowing, Wheat flour)
*Miettes qui tombent (Falling breadcrumbs)
*Canari qui chante (Singing canary)
*The Lilac Fairy
*The Gold, Silver, Sapphire, and Diamond Fairies

"The Four Suitors":

*Prince Chéri
*Prince Charmant
*Prince Fortuné
*Prince Fleur de Pois

"The Prince's Hunting Party":

*Prince Désiré (Florimund)
*Gallifron, Prince Désiré's tutor
*The Prince's friends, duchesses, baronesses, countesses, and marchionesses

"Fairy-Tale Characters":

*The White Cat
*Princess Florine
*Little Red Riding Hood
*The Gray Wolf
*Hop-o'-My-Thumb, his brothers, and the Ogre


*"Time": Fairy-tale time


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 arrives last (the names of fairies and their gifts vary in productions). As the fairies are happily granting gifts of honesty, grace, prosperity, song and generosity, they are suddenly interrupted by the sudden presence of the evil fairy Carabosse, who is furious at the King's failure to invite her to the ceremony. The King blames this on the Master of Ceremonies, Catallabutte and she rips off his wig. With spite and rage, Carabosse declares her curse on Princess Aurora: she will prick her finger on her sixteenth birthday and die. The Lilac Fairy, fortunately, has not granted her gift to the Princess. She acknowledges that Carabosse's power is immense and she cannot completely reverse the curse. However, she declares, although the Princess will prick her finger, she will not die, but instead sleep for 100 years until the kiss of a prince will awake her.

Act I
It is Princess Aurora's sixteenth birthday. Celebrations are already elaborately planned and the atmosphere is festive, made complete with a waltz danced by the villagers with garlands. Aurora receives four suitors and their gifts of exquisite roses. Soon after, Aurora is presented with a spindle as a gift from a disguised Carabosse, which she has never seen before. Carelessly, she dances with it despite her mother and father's warnings before accidentally pricking herself. She faints. Carabosse immediately reveals her true wicked self triumphantly and vanishes before the astonished guests. At the same moment, the Lilac Fairy appears as she had promised. She reminds the guests and the King and Queen of her gift that will make Aurora merely sleep, not die. She then casts a spell upon the whole kingdom and they will only awake when Aurora does.

Act II
One hundred years later, Prince Florimund (in the original production, Désiré) is at a hunting party with his companions. He is not happy and his hunting party try to cheer him up with a game of blind man's bluff and a series of dances. Still unhappy, he asks to be alone and the hunting party depart. Suddenly, Florimund sees the Lilac Fairy who presents him with a vision of Aurora and he is entranced by her beauty. The Prince pleads with the Lilac Fairy to bring him to see Princess Aurora, to which the latter consents. The Prince discovers the castle, which is now overgrown in thick vines. His first act is to defeat the evil Carabosse. Once past her and inside the castle, the Prince finds Aurora and awakens her with a kiss. The entire kingdom awakes with her. The Prince then declares his love for Aurora and proposes to her. The King and the Queen are happy to give their blessings.

Preparations for the wedding are made. On the day of the festivities, different fairies are invited. These are the fairies to bless the marriage - The Gold Fairy, the Silver Fairy, the Sapphire Fairy and the Diamond Fairy. The Lilac Fairy also makes an appearance. Many fairytale characters, such as Puss in Boots and the White Cat, are also among the guests. A golden chain of dances is held, including a Pas de Quatre for the four precious jewel and metal fairies, a dance for Puss in Boots and the White Cat, a Pas de Deux for the Bluebird and Princess Florine, a dance for Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, a dance for Cinderella and Prince Fortune (usually omitted), a Sarabande (usually omitted), a Pas de Deux for Aurora and Florimund and finally a mazurka. The Prince and the Princess are wed, and the Lilac Fairy blesses their marriage. The ballet ends with an apotheosis (apothéose) where all the characters make a final bow.


Titles of all of the numbers listed here come from Marius Petipa's original scenario, as well as the original libretto and programs of the first production of 1890. Major changes which were made to the score for Petipa's original production are mentioned, and help explain why the score is often heard in different versions in theatres today.

All libretti and programs of works performed on the stages of the Imperial Theatres were titled in French, which was the official language of the Emperor's Court, as well as the language in which balletic terminology is derived.

Prologue — Le baptême de la Psse. Aurore

:No.1-a "Introduction:No.1-b "Marche de salon":No.2-a "Entrée des fées":No.2-b "Scène dansante":No.3 "Grand pas d'ensemble" (a.k.a. "Pas de six") —::a. "Grand adage suave. Petit allégro"::b. "Variation - Candide"::c. "Variation - Coulante–Fleur de farine"::d. "Variation - Miettes–qui tombent" (a.k.a. "breadcrumb")::e. "Variation - Canari–qui chante"::f. "Variation - Violente–échevelée"::g. "Variation - La Fée des lilas–voluptueuse"::h. "Coda générale":No.4 "Scène et final"—::a. "Entrée de Carabosse"::b. "Scène mimique de Carabosse"::c. "Scène mimique de la Fée des lilas"

Act I — Les quatre fiancés de la Psse. Aurore

:No.5-a "Introduction":No.5-b "Scène des tricoteuses":No.6 "Grande valse villageoise" (a.k.a. "The Garland Waltz"):No.7 "Entrée d'Aurore":No.8 "Grand pas d'action"—::a. "Grand adage à la rose" (opening harp cadenza extended by Riccardo Drigo at Petipa's request)::b. "Danse des demoiselles d'honneur et des pages"::c. "Variation d'Aurore" (edited ending done at Petipa's request by an unknown hand)::d. "Coda":No.9 "Scène et final"—::a. "La danse d'Aurore avec de fuseau"::b. "Le charme"::c. "L'arrivée de la Fée des lilas"

Act II
:Scene I — La chasse du Prince Désiré

:No.10-a "Entr'acte":No.10-b "Scène de la chasse royale":No.11 "Colin-Maillard":No.12 "Danses des demoiselles nobles"—::a. "Scène"::b. "Danse des duchesses"::c. "Danse des baronesses" (cut by Petipa from the original production)::d. "Danse des comtesses" (cut by Petipa from the original production)::e. "Danse des marquises" (cut by Petipa from the original production):No.13 "Coda–Farandole":No.14-a "Scène et départ des chasseurs":No.14-b "Entrée de la Fée des lilas":No.15 "Pas d'action"—::a. "Entrée de l'apparition d'Aurore"::b. "Grand adage suave" (opening harp cadenza extended by Riccardo Drigo at Petipa's request)::c. "Valse des nymphes–Petit allégro coquet"
*Interpolation: 4 transitional bars for the end of no.15-c composed by Riccardo Drigo to lead into Brianza's variation
*Interpolation: "Variation Mlle. Brianza" (No.23-b "Variation de la fée-Or" from Act III)::c. "Variation d'Aurore" (cut by Petipa from the original production)::d. "Petite coda":No.16 "Scène":No.17 "Panorama"
*Interpolation: 3 transitional bars for the end of no.17 composed by Riccardo Drigo to lead into no.19, as no.18 was cut in the original production:No.18 "Entr'acte symphonique" (cut by Petipa from the original production)

:Scene II — Le château de la belle au bois dormant

:No.19 "Scène du château de sommeil":No.20 "Scène et final – Le réveil d'Aurore"

Act III — Les Noces de Désiré et d'Aurore

:No.21 "Marche":No.22 "Grand polonaise dansée" (a.k.a. "The Procession of the Fairy Tales"):"Grand divertissement"—:No.23 "Pas de quatre"::a. "Entrée"::b. "Variation de la fée-Or" (transferred by Petipa to Act II as a Variation for Carlotta Brianza in the original production)::c. "Variation de la fée-Argent" (changed by Petipa in the original production – "Pas de trois pour la Fées d'Or, d'Argent et de Saphir)::d. "Variation de la fée-Saphir" (cut by Petipa from the original production)::e. "Variation de la fée-Diamant"::f. "Coda"
*Interpolation: "Entrée de chats" – a 10 bar introduction written by Tchaikovsky for no.24:No.24 "Pas de caractère – Le Chat botté et la Chatte blanche":No.25 "Pas de quatre" (changed by Petipa in the original production – "Pas de deux de l'Oiseau bleu et la Princesse Florine")::a. "Entrée"::b. "Variation de Cendrillon et Prince Fortuné" (changed by Petipa in the original production – "Variation de l'Oiseau bleu")::c. "Variation de l'Oiseau bleu la Princesse Florine" (changed by Petipa in the original production – "Variation de la Princesse Florine")::d. "Coda":No.26 "Pas de caractère – Chaperon Rouge et le Loup"
*Interpolation: "Pas de caractère – Cendrillon et Prince Fortuné":No.27 "Pas berrichon – Le Petit Poucet, ses frères et l'Ogre":No.28 "Grand pas de quatre" (originally arranged by Petipa as a "Pas de quatre" for the Princess Aurora, Prince Désiré and the Gold and Sapphire Fairies)::a. "Entrée" (only the first eight bars were retained)::b. "Grand adage"
*Interpolation: "Danse pour les Fées d'Or et de Saphir" (Petipa utilized the music for the "Entrée" to accompany a dance for the Gold and Sapphire Fairies)::c. "Variation du Prince Désiré"::d. "Variation d'Aurore" (edited by Riccardo Drigo for the original production at Petipa's request)::e. "Coda":No.29 "Sarabande – quadrille pour Turcs, Éthiopiens, Africains et Américains":No.30-a "Coda générale":No.30-b "Apothéose – Apollon en costume de Louis XIV, éclairé par le soleil entouré des fées"

Versions by other hands

"Aurora's Wedding" by Serge Diaghilev

In 1922, ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev arranged a 45-minute version of the final act for his Ballets Russes, entitled "Aurora's Wedding". This abridged version has been recorded by conductor Leopold Stokowski, in one of his last performances, and by Charles Dutoit.

The adaptation takes material from the Act I Introduction of the ballet and combines it with most of the final act, as well as other sections. The selections in this version are listed as follows:

::1) Introduction (Prologue)::2) Polacca (Act 3)::3) Pas de Six (Prologue)::4) Scene; Danse des Duchesses; Danse des Marquises (Act 2)::5) Farandole; Danse - Tempo di Mazurka (Act 2)::6) Pas de Quatre (Act 3)::7) Pas de Caractere-Chaperone Rouge et la Loup (Act 3) ::8) Pas de Quatre (Act 3)::9) Coda-The Three Ivans (Act 3)::10) Pas de Deux (Act 3)::11) Finale - Tempo di Mazurka; Apotheose (Act 3)


External links

Video Samples

Act III of the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's reconstruction of Petipa's original 1890 production of "The Sleeping Beauty":
* [ Pt.1 "March" / "Grand Procession of the Fairy Tales"]
* [ Pt.2 "Pas de Quatre of the Precious Stones" / "Pas de Caractère: Puss in Boots & the White Cat"]
* [ Pt.3 "Pas de Deux of the Bluebird & Princess Florine"]
* [ Pt.4 "Pas de Caractère: Little Red Riding Hood" / "Pas de Caractère: Cinderella & Prince Fortuné" / "Pas Berrichon: Tom Thumb & the Ogre]
* [ Pt.5 "Grand Pas de Deux Classique"]
* [ The Sleeping Beauty - Choreography by Rudolf Nureyev]
* [ "The Ballet Soloist" (aka "Russian Ballerina")] - 1947 Soviet musical film with scenes from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" and "The Sleeping Beauty". With subtitles in Esperanto.


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