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09 Nov 2005
TCHAIKOVSKY: Sleeping Beauty
Tchaikovsky counted Sleeping Beauty as one of his best works. The idea came from Ivan Vsevolozhsky (1835-1909), director of the Russian Imperial Theatres from 1881 onward. He had staged several of Tchaikovsky’s operas, and he wanted Tchaikovsky to produce a ballet score with him.
Sleeping Beauty is based on the baroque fairy tale La belle au bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood) by Charles Perrault (1628-1703). Perrault wrote his fairy tales for the amusement of Louis XIV and the Sun King’s court, who were amused by tales of the simple folk. Marius Petipa (181-1910), the ballet master who choreographed Tchaikovsky’s score, staged it in the style of Louis XIV court, constructing marvelous stage sets made from painted gauze veils and movable walls, as well as lavish costumes from the 17th century French style. Although the ballet had a lukewarm reception at its premiere, it took on a life of its own in the 20th century, with many imitators and devotees of Petipa attempting to produce the original performance and choreography. Act Three is the crux and highlight of the ballet, the marriage of Princess Aurora and Prince Desire, where all of the characters from Perrault’s fairy tales come to life and appear in the ballroom. Puss-in-Boots, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Cinderella; a whole menagerie from Perrault’s well-known Tales of Mother Goose appears throughout the production.
The version of the production in the DVD is the one choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich in 1973. Grigorovich does not try to recreate Petipa’s style; rather, he incorporates Petipa’s legacy of “symphonizing the dance.” This involves traditional classical numbers with several demi-character or related numbers, which fit within the overall visual framework yet follow the musical flow. The performance is truly a delight and feast for the eyes, with all of the various fairy tale characters and dance pieces that remind one of The Nutcracker and its many visual and musical pieces. The Bolshoi Ballet does a wonderful job performing and costuming the various dancers, and the music is done quite well.
Dr. Brad Eden
University of Nevada, Las Vegas