Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Op. 66, 1889)
Choreography: Ronald Hynd (after Marius Petipa)
Staging: Ronald Hynd, Annette Page, and Amanda Eyles
Scenic and Costume Design: Peter Docherty
Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli
Duration: 3 hours
Original Production Premiere: January 15, 1890; Imperial Ballet, St. Petersburg, choreography by Marius Petipa
Hynd Production Premiere: 1993; English National Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: February 1, 2001
The Sleeping Beauty represents the pinnacle of 19th-century Russian ballet, a collaboration of dance, music, and design that continues to influence ballet today. The well-known story served as a foundation on which the ballet’s creators—composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, choreographer Marius Petipa, and designer and director of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres Ivan Vsevolozhsky—developed a work that demonstrated a century’s worth of achievements in classical dance. Coveted among ballerinas, the leading role of Princess Aurora offers opportunities for a rich display of classical technique and artistic interpretation, from the famed Rose Adagio to the elegiac “vision scene” adagio and finally the triumphant wedding pas de deux.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty by English choreographer Ronald Hynd was originally set on English National Ballet and is based on the historic Royal Ballet version, with which Hynd and his wife, former Royal Ballet ballerina Annette Page, are intimately familiar. That production, in turn, was closely based on the original Sleeping Beauty of 1890.
Ronald Hynd has commented on his own history with The Sleeping Beauty: “In 1946, the Sadler’s Wells Ballet [now the Royal Ballet] re-opened the Royal Opera House with a sumptuous production of Marius Petipa’s choreographic masterpiece, The Sleeping Beauty. …As a teenage student I saw many performances during that 1946 season. A group of us, young hopeful dancers from the Rambert School of Ballet, would rush to the gallery whenever we could afford the two shillings and sixpence. …By the time I joined the company at Covent Garden in 1952, I seemed to know nearly every step of the work, absorbed no doubt by love and ambition. … Over the years, I had secretly nurtured an ambition to stage my own production of The Sleeping Beauty…Elizabeth Anderton, then Acting Artistic Director of English National Ballet, invited me to present this new staging in 1993 to mark the centenary of Tchaikovsky’s death.”
Prologue – The Christening
In the fairytale court of King Florestan and his Queen, a gathering has assembled to celebrate the birth of the royal Princess Aurora. Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies, greets the fairies as they arrive bestowing gifts of beauty, temperament, purity, joy, wit, generosity, and wisdom.
Suddenly the sky darkens, and malevolent music announces the arrival of Carabosse, an evil fairy who had not been invited to the christening. Enraged over her exclusion, she attacks the terrified Catalabutte and mocks the benign fairies who have assembled. Her gift to the infant is a curse: at the age of 16, Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and die. But the Lilac Fairy, who has withheld her gift until now, decrees that the young Aurora will instead fall into a deep sleep lasting one hundred years, only to be awakened by an ardent young prince with a promise of marriage.
Act I – The Curse
Catalabutte greets the peasants who are allowed to present flowers on the occasion of Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday. An old hag enters with a spinning wheel to the horror of Catalabutte, who warns her that spindles are banned in the Kingdom; any infringement is punishable by death. The King arrives and sentences her to be hung. But the Queen intercedes and the hag is hurried away.
The princess arrives and is courted by four visiting dukes, who lead her in the famous Rose Adagio. The hag re-enters and presents the princess with a spindle. Enchanted by her gift, Aurora dances joyously until she pricks her finger. The curse of Carabosse has been achieved. The Lilac Fairy returns to prepare the Princess and her court for the hundred-year sleep. Thick vines and foliage rise around the palace to protect it from intrusion.
Act II – The Vision and Awakening
A hundred years have passed. Prince Florimund of a nearby kingdom has joined his friends for a hunting party in the forest. The aristocratic group dances a series of rustic rounds before taking off for the chase, but the contemplative prince lingers to enjoy his solitude. The Lilac Fairy and her nymphs appear. She tells the prince of the beautiful princess asleep in the forest, awaiting the kiss of a prince. She conjures up a vision of Aurora, who enchants the young man with her dance. He joins the Lilac Fairy in a panoramic pilgrimage to the palace, where they find Aurora asleep in her bower. One kiss, and she and her sleeping court are restored to life.
Act III – The Wedding
For the marriage of Aurora and Florimund, a grand celebration is held in the palace to which fairy tale characters are invited. They arrive bearing precious jewels, and each entertains the guests with a divertissement. Aurora and Florimund affirm their love in a grand pas de deux. At the climax of the festivities, the Lilac Fairy and her nymphs are revealed in the sky blessing the happy couple.
Notes by Doug Fullington.