Level Three – The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty is the ultimate romantic ballet, an enchanting tale based on one of the most beloved fairy tales of all time. It has long been famous for its particularly lavish productions and for the variety of dances and moods that it encompasses. Today it continues to be one of the most popular and frequently performed ballets.

The Story

The story of The Sleeping Beauty ballet is based on the French writer Charles Perrault’s fairy tale ‘La Belle au bois dormant’ and on the Brothers Grimm’s version of that story. The scenario was written by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, director of the Imperial Theatres in Russia, who also commissioned the ballet.

Prologue: The Christening

King Florestan XXIV and his Queen have arranged a lavish christening ceremony for their first child, Princess Aurora. Cattalabutte, the Master of Ceremonies, is in charge of the guest list. The Lilac Fairy and other fairy godmothers arrive to bestow gifts such as purity, beauty and sweetness. As the Lilac Fairy is about to present her gift, the evil fairy Carabosse arrives with her entourage. She is enraged that she was not invited to the christening. When the Master of Ceremonies confirms that Carabosse was not on the guest list, she tears off his wig and beats him. Carabosse places a curse on the baby, saying that on her sixteenth birthday Princess Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and die. The Lilac Fairy then uses her own gift to modify the curse: the Princess will indeed prick her finger, but instead of dying she will fall asleep. And, after 100 years, a prince will find her and awaken her with a kiss.

Act I: The Spell

Princess Aurora’s sixteenth birthday has arrived and celebrations are underway. Cattalabutte sees a group of women knitting near the castle. This is a crime punishable by death because the King has banned all sewing implements from the kingdom. The Queen asks for the King to be merciful towards the women and he agrees. Princess Aurora is introduced to four princes who are seeking her hand in marriage. She dances the Rose Adagio with the princes, an extremely demanding sequence involving a series of balances on pointe for the Princess. After her dances, an old lady appears and offers the Princess a spindle. She takes it curiously, pricks her finger, and falls into a swoon. The old lady, who is actually Carabosse, believes that Aurora has died, but the Lilac Fairy tells the King and Queen that Princess Aurora is only sleeping. The Lilac Fairy then casts a spell, putting the entire kingdom to sleep. The castle is overgrown with thorns and ivy.

Act II: The Vision

100 years have gone by. Prince Desiré is hunting with his friends, who try to cheer him up from his morose mood. Prince Desiré stays behind as the hunting party leaves in pursuit of its prey. The Lilac Fairy greets the Prince and shows him a vision of Princess Aurora. The Prince follows the Lilac Fairy deep into the forest, where they arrive at the castle hidden amongst the ivy. At the gates, Carabosse tries once more to stop the Prince, but along with the Lilac Fairy, he defeats her and they enter the castle. The Prince awakens the Princess with a kiss and the entire kingdom wakes up. The Prince and Princess agree to marry.

Act III: The Wedding

The court celebrates the marriage of Princess Aurora and Prince Desiré. They are joined by the Lilac Fairy and other fairies, as well as fairy-tale characters such as Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Princess Florine and the Bluebird. The ballet concludes with a pas de deux by the Princess and Prince, and a final dance including all the guests.

Video: The Sleeping Beauty – Act III (Princess Florine): Nina Kaptsova, The Bolshoi Ballet, 2011.