23 August 2012 (Thu), 19:00 Russian National Ballet Theatre - Classical Ballet The Sleeping Beauty. The Russian National Ballet Theatre
Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Schedule for The Sleeping Beauty. The Russian National Ballet Theatre 2013
Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky
Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky
Artistic Director: Vladimir Moiseyev
Choreography: Marius Petipa
Artistic Director: Evgeny Amosov
Orchestra: The Rakhmaninov Symphony Orchestra
Performance by The Russian National Ballet Theatre
The Sleeping Beauty, a crowning jewel of Marius Petipa’s career, is often considered the finest achievement of the Classical ballet. It is a grandiose and refined blending of the traditional mime, expressive pas d’action and spectacular divertissements in a lavish theatrical setting. Tchiakovsky was delighted with the invitation to write the music for a ballet based on Charles Perrault’s well known fairy tale. A baby princess, condemned at her christening by an evil fairy to prick her finger and die on her 16th birthday, is saved by the gift of the good Lilac Fairy, who declares the princess will only sleep until awakened by the kiss of a prince. The fairy tale replete with a king and queen, fairies both good and evil, a beautiful princess and dream prince, magical stage effects, and courtly splendor, lent itself perfectly to the full evening ballet that was Petipa’s pride.
Although different productions have cast the kingdom of King Florestan and his queen in varying centuries, it is really a storybook kingdom set in the realm of the imagination. In the Prologue, the hall of the palace where the christening is about to take place is resplendent with color, and imposing with its high ceilings and great stone archways. The master of ceremonies, pages, heralds, ladies in waiting, and finally the King and Queen all promenade into the royal setting, looking most distinguished in their elaborate dress. Next, the fairies of the kingdom join the scene of courtly pageantry with the Lilac Fairy, six cavaliers and maids of honor entering last. All dance in honor of the King and Queen and baby Aruora, about to be christened, Each of the fairies dances her own solo, presenting a gift to the Princess. The dances of no real dramatic significance are an example of Petipa’s use of the well timed divertissement. Just as the Lilac Fairy finishes her dance a strange and frightening rumble is heard. Its meaning soon becomes clear: the master of ceremonies has forgotten to invite the evil fairy Carabosse! The grotesque woman, her face a white mask, her long dress black and tattered enters in a huge black coach drawn by four ugly rats. Stepping down, she gesticulates with her hand and threatens with her stick that they will have to pay the price for their omission. In mime, she delivers the ominous curse that the Princess will prick her finger on a spindle and die. The master of ceremonies is in disgrace, the King and Queen are in despair. But the Lilac Fairy has not given her the gift. She steps forward and assures the royal court that on her 16th Birthday the princess will indeed prick her finger, but then fall asleep for 100 years. Carabosse speeds off in a rage while the others surround the infant’s cradle as if to protect her from further harm.
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 on 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 expressive of a young girl’s blossoming into womanhood, is about to start. Aurora begins the adagio standing in attitude: one leg is raised and bent behind her, one curved arm is raised overhead. Some have read in this 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 the attitude 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 dread 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 meloncholy 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.
The Sleeping Beauty was the first of Petipa’s classics to be seen in Western Europe. Under the title The Sleeping Princess, it was presented by Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929) in London in 1921. In 1939, it was remounted in Great Britain and has been considered the foundation of the Classical ballet repertory in that country ever since. It has now been adopted worldwide, and performance of the leading role remains a kind of initiation rite for aspiring ballerinas.
The Sleeping Beauty is a supreme demonstration of the challenge of Petipa’s style - steel point work, sharply accented spinning turns, soaring leaps, high extensions, brilliant battery (beats in the air), daring lifts and, in addition, it gives a fairy tale plot lavish stage treatment. However, its production actually checked a growing tendency toward shapeless extravaganza in 19th century ballet, adhering closely to the principle of choreographic symphonism: meaning that, like the composition of a symphony, it had a certain formal structure. The Sleeping Beauty was choreographed in strict association with Tchaikovsky’s music. There are themes developed and resumed throughout the ballet, and each act is a unity unto itself. Tchaikovsky willingly took instruction from Petipa as to the length tempo and character of each musical sequence ( as he would also do in The Nutcracker). The themes - a young girl’s coming of age and the triumph of good over evil are developed dramatically and musically during the course of the ballet. Each of the three acts includes an adagio for Princess Aurora, the first celebrating her girlhood, the second her falling in love, and the third her marriage. In these pas d’actions, Petipa makes fuller use than previous choreographers of the dramatic potential of the Classical ballet, as for example, when Aurora’s curved (questioning) attitudes become sharp (exclamatory) arabesques and her balances grow steadily surer.
Music For Ballets
Fragment 2Schedule for The Sleeping Beauty. The Russian National Ballet Theatre 2013