about the show
With the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, the Russian National Ballet Theatre gives The Sleeping Beauty a lavish stage treatment. Internationally acclaimed dancers brilliantly perform the classic tale of a young girl’s coming of age and the triumph of good over evil.
The Fairy Tale
Scholars believe the story of Sleeping Beauty emerged in medieval Scandinavia in the saga depicting the goddess Brynhild. In this story, Brynhild angers the god Odin who pricks her finger with a thorn that causes her to fall asleep. He imprisons her in a castle and condemns her to marry a mortal. Sigurd, a hero in Scandinavian sagas, rescues Brynhild and marries her.
The ballet though, is based on Charles Perrault’s original version of the tale, “La belle au bois dormant” (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood), published in “Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye” (Tales of Mother Goose). The ballet characters include Princess Aurora, the wicked fairy Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and dozens of other skillful performers to illuminate the tale.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Introduced to various forms of music as a child, Tchaikovsky began piano lessons at age five, but it was not until he was an adult that he devoted his life to becoming a musician. When he was ten years old, his parents sent him to the School of Jurisprudence to train as a lawyer. He studied there until he was nineteen years old, but during that time he also continued his music lessons.
After graduation, he worked for the government as a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice. According to letters he wrote his sister Sacha, he felt he was not a very good civil servant, but he was also concerned that it was too late to start a career as a musician. “Father insists that it is still not to late for me to take it [music] up professionally... They’ve made a civil servant out of me—and a bad one at that,” he wrote.
Fortunately, Tchaikovsky quit his civil service job and entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. When he graduated four years later, he won a silver medal for a cantata he had written.
Notable works by Tchaikovsky include:
- Swan Lake
- The Nutcracker
- The Sleeping Beauty
- “The Barber of Seville”
- “The Fairy”
- Five Suites
- Eight Symphonies
- Ten Concertos
Marius Petipa, the “father of classical ballet,” began his dance training at the age of seven with his father, Jean Petipa. His progress was so great that he made his debut at the age of nine in his father's production of Gardel’s La Dansomanie. In 1869, Petipa became Premier Ballet Master of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre in Russia.
Considered one of the greatest choreographers of all time, he produced more than sixty full-length ballets and innumerable shorter works, many of which survive in their original form. He researched the subject matter of the ballets he staged, making careful and detailed preparations for each production. He also revived several classical ballets such as Giselle, Coppélia, and Swan Lake, giving them their definitive versions. All full-length works and individual pieces that have survived in active performances are considered cornerstones of the ballet repertory.
Ballet developed in the Italian Renaissance courts and spread to the rest of Europe when Italian noblewoman Catherine de’Medici married King Henry II of France. It developed as a performance-based art form during the reign of Louis XIV in an attempt to reverse the decline in dance standards. The king often danced in these early ballets and founded the Royal Academy of Dance in 1661. The chief choreographer and composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully, combined music and drama with Italian and French dance elements and laid the groundwork for French ballet.
With the founding of St. Petersburg as the new cultural capital of Russia, the Imperial Russian Theatre aimed to create a new way of living. Throughout the 1800s, French choreographers and dancers like Petipa and Jules-Joseph Perrot brought French choreography and music to Russian dancers, planting the seeds for what author Jack Anderson called, “the most prestigious of ballet troupes…unlike that of any other country in the world.”
Modern Russian ballet blossomed in France. After the Russian Revolution, Sergei Diaghilev opened a company of exiled Russian dancers living in Paris. Considered one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century, the Ballets Russes modernized Russian ballet by featuring new collaborations among choreographers, composers, designers, and dancers.
The Russian National Ballet Theatre
Founded in Moscow during the transitional period of Perestroika in the late 1980s, The Russian National Ballet Theatre is dedicated not only to the timeless tradition of classical Russian Ballet but to invigorate ballet with new developments in dance from around the world.
The company, originally titled the Soviet National Ballet when it was founded in the late 1980s, incorporates graduates from the Russian choreographic schools of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Perm. The principal dancers came from the upper ranks of the great ballet companies and academies of Russia, and the companies of Riga, Kiev and Warsaw.