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About the ballet

«The Sleeping Beauty» by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa is a ballet recognized as an absolute masterpiece of the choreographic heritage. The collaboration of a librettist, composer and choreographer turned out to be the most harmonious. A complex polyphonic structure of the ballet performance was created, which combined the monumentalism of the patulous large choreographic compositions and the expressive elegance of the dance miniatures.

After the failure of «Swan Lake», Pyotr Tchaikovsky did not turn to a ballet genre for over 10 years. But in the case of «The Sleeping Beauty», the composer decided to trust the experience of an outstanding choreographer Marius Petipa, who created a detailed musical and theatrical plan for the future ballet, indicating the structure of the stage acts, the metro-rhythmic characteristics, the sound character and became the choreographer of the original production.

The initiative to create the ballet «The Sleeping Beauty» belonged to a director of the Russian Imperial Theatres, a writer, screenwriter, painter Ivan Vsevolozhskiy. He conceived a magnificent performance such as those staged at the court of Louis XIV. «Here your musical fantasy can run wild and you can compose melodies in the spirit of Lully, Bach, Rameau and others» Vsevolozhskiy wrote to Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky began writing the score in 1888. Tchaikovsky worked enthusiastically, he wrote to his colleagues: «Regarding the ballet, I can tell you that I quite like its plot, and I will take it with the greatest pleasure». The plot of the tale, written almost two hundred years ago by a French writer Charles Perrault, seemed to the composer rather poetic and musical. Tchaikovsky was primarily attracted to this fantastic world of images by the opportunity to embody into music the eternal problem of struggle between Good and Evil, the triumph of the bright ideals of Beauty, Joy and Love. It should be noted that fairy tale genre was reflected in other works of the composer, among which there are the ballets «Swan Lake» and «The Nutcracker», music for «The Spring Tale» by A. Ostrovskiy, the plays from «The Children's Album», his last opera «Iolanta», etc.

Tchaikovsky took into account the experience of his predecessors, so his music revived the classical dance to a new life, to new artistic and emotional heights. Previously, the task of composers in the ballet was to write beautiful melodies, to provide rhythmic basis and dance mood, to create an emotional atmosphere of an action. But P. Tchaikovsky managed to unite the philosophical-poetic and musical elements of the works, which were expressed in the «symphonization» of ballet music (the composer said that ballet is just symphony) and, more than that, he gave the ballet score a symphonic unity, the integrity of form, transversal musical development.

It was exactly the innovative music of «The Sleeping Beauty» that inspired Marius Petipa to look for a new type of structure of ballet performance. In this choreographic masterpiece he managed to create a typical structure of the performance in accordance with the requirements of the music and ballet drama. «This work, the most perfect among Petipa's work, sums up the difficult, not always successful, but persistent choreographer's search in the field of ballet symphonism. To a certain extent, it sums up the whole way of the choreographic art of the XIX century ...» – wrote an outstanding ballet historian and critic Vera Krasovskaya.

The management of the imperial troupe took staging the ballet very seriously and allocated considerable funds for it. «The Sleeping Beauty» was one of the most pompous and expensive ballet premiere of the Mariinsky Theatre: «The costumes, the scenery, the machines and the props of «The Sleeping Beauty»  cost about 42,000 rubles, that is, a little more than a quarter of the entire annual budget the tech part (i.e. scenery part) of Petersburg theatres» (from the memoirs of Marius Petipa).

The premiere of the production consisting of five scenes was held in St. Petersburg in January 1890, and by 1903 the «Sleeping Beauty» had become one of the most popular dance performances of the Imperial Ballet.

The history of life of this ballet on the world proves the unquenchable interest of choreographers, performers and audience to it. The perfect compositions of the classical innovator Marius Petipa are the basis in many productions. His version was recreated at the Mariinsky Theatre by Nikolay Sergeev (1914), Fedor Lopukhov (1922), at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow by Alexander Gorskiy (1899), Vasiliy Tikhomirov (1924). Great efforts were made by Konstantin Sergeev, Asaf Messerer, Mikhail Gabovich, Nadezhda Fedorova, Yuriy Grigorovich and others to preserve and update the choreographic masterpiece.

For more than 100 years since its production it has been performed in various theatres all round the world, including Covent Garden, Opéra de Paris, The Australian Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, New York City Ballet, etc.


    February, 2019