Sleeping Beauty (Ballet)

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Original cast for the premiere, act 1, Carlotta Brianza (third from left) as Aurora , St. Petersburg 1890
Original cast of the premiere, 3rd act, Carlotta Brianza (3rd from left) as Aurora , Paul Gerdt (right) as Désiré , St. Petersburg 1890

Sleeping Beauty ( Russian Спящая Красавица ) is a ballet to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (op. 66) based on the fairy tale La belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault . The libretto for the composition comes from Iwan Alexandrowitsch Wsewoloschski . The ballet was released on January 3rd . / January 15, 1890 greg. premiered at the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg with the choreography by Marius Petipa . To this day, Sleeping Beauty is one of the most popular ballets and belongs to the international standard repertoire of classical ballet. Tchaikovsky himself thought it was his best ballet.


Central figures:

  • Princess Aurora
  • Prince Désiré
  • Carabosse (evil fairy)
  • The lilac fairy (fairy of wisdom)
  • King Florestan
  • The Queen
  • Catalabutte, steward
  • A wet nurse

Minor characters:

  • In the prologue: five fairies (beauty, cleverness, grace, eloquence, strength) and their companions
  • In the first act: four princes (east, north, south, west), Aurora's friends
  • In the second act: the prince's fiancée, companion of the Carabosse
  • In the third act: festival guests (fairy tale characters)
  • Court ladies and gentlemen, gardeners, forest spirits (corps de ballet)


The plot is largely based on the fairy tale La belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault from 1696. The third act and the concluding divertissement are typical of the 19th century. The plot differs from the version of the Brothers Grimm known in Germany (for the fairy tale and its versions, see also the article Sleeping Beauty ).


Aurora's baptism

The royal couple had to wait many years until their most ardent wish was granted: the birth of a child! They named the girl Aurora, and today she is to be baptized. In addition to the court society, six fairies were invited to the celebration. They bring gifts and good wishes to the princess. To everyone's surprise, the sky darkens suddenly and a thunderstorm approaches. Suddenly the old, neglected fairy Carabosse stands in the ballroom. Angry that she was not invited, she curses the child. When Aurora celebrates her 16th birthday, she should stab herself on a spindle and injure herself fatally. The whole party is horrified. The lilac fairy, who is considered to bring good luck, cannot undo the curse, but it can attenuate it somewhat: Aurora will not die, but will only fall into a hundred-year sleep. When she was kissed by a prince, her spirits would awaken again.

In an inter-scene you can see how Aurora is growing up, always accompanied by the good lilac fairy. But Carabosse also keeps an eye on the princess and longs for the day when her curse will come true.

first act

Aurora's birthday

The princess is celebrating her 16th birthday. There are also four young princes among the guests who ask for their hand. As on the day of her baptism, Aurora receives numerous gifts again. She shows particular joy in a huge bouquet of red roses. It is from Carabosse, but this remains hidden from the princess. It doesn't take long before a scream escapes her and she sinks to the ground, apparently dead. Carabosse had hidden a spindle in the bouquet that the girl had stabbed herself with. The wicked fairy enjoys the fulfillment of her curse with real satisfaction. The good lilac fairy ensures that everyone in the castle falls into a deep sleep.

Second act

Hunting scene, Prince Désiré's vision and Aurora's awakening

A hundred years have passed now. Not far from the enchanted castle is a princely hunting party, led by Prince Désiré. The young people pass the time with all sorts of board games. Suddenly the lilac fairy encounters the group and approaches the prince. With her magical powers, she ensures that the portrait of Aurora appears to him. The prince is so delighted about this that he wants to find out more about the lovely girl. The lilac fairy invites him to follow her; then he will find happiness today.

Désiré's heart begins to beat faster when he sees the sleeping beauty. He carefully takes her head in his hands and presses Aurora a hot kiss on the lips. Suddenly the spirits of life awaken not only in her, but in the entire court society.

Third act

Aurora's wedding

The king and queen organize a costume party with great pomp. All invited guests dressed up as fairy tale characters: Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and her prince, Duke Bluebeard and his princess, Scheherazade and Aladin, Colombina and Harlequin, the princess and the frog prince, the princess and the pea and her lover, the porcelain princess and her mandarin as well as Snow White and the seven dwarfs. (Depending on the staging, there can also be other fairytale characters, e.g. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.)

As the wedding feast approaches its climax, the newlyweds dance a great pas de deux . Then the lilac fairy gives her charge and the groom her blessing. Carabosse observes what is happening from afar with a grudge. So evil has still not disappeared from the world.

Famous passages

Some parts of the work are particularly well-known and are presented at ballet evenings or competitions:

  • "Rosen-Adagio" ( Adage à la rose ) from the 1st act
Aurora dances with the four princes, balancing in different poses. The piece, which lasts a good 6 minutes, is a great challenge for the soloist.
  • Pas de deux of the Blue Bird and the Princess Florine from the 3rd act
In order to represent the flying and fluttering of the blue bird in a dance, many high or batted jumps were built into the choreography.
  • Wedding pas-de-deux from the 3rd act
Aurora and Désiré dance together. The soloists' variations are often part of competition programs.

More choreographies

Another important choreography was created in 1921 by Nikolai Sergejew on behalf of Sergei Dyagilev for a new production of the Ballets Russes in London : This performance under the title The Sleeping Princess was the first in Western Europe. For this staging, serious interventions were made in the piece, including the installation of additional music composed by Igor Stravinsky .

Sergejew also performed Petipa's version with the Vic-Wells Ballet in 1939 and with the Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1946 , both with Margot Fonteyn in the title role. Due to this revival of the almost original version, Sleeping Beauty is now part of the standard repertoire of the great ballet companies .

The choreographer John Neumeier and the stage and costume designer Jürgen Rose presented an elaborate new production at the Hamburg Ballet in 1978. The production is to be resumed in the program in 2021 with revised, new equipment and to preserve the choreography.

On the basis of the ballet, Marcia Haydée created a more contemporary new choreography as early as 1987 , but retained the framework of the original version. The work was premiered on May 10, 1987 in the Great House of the Württemberg State Theater in Stuttgart . A performance of their version takes about three and a half hours (with breaks).

In 2005 Vladimir Malakhov created a new version of the ballet with the Berlin State Ballet. As in fairy tales, fairies determine the interpretation. It has become an opulent, colorful new production, to be seen in the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

The Hessian State Theater Wiesbaden presented a modern new production in 2007 with the choreography by Gaetano Posterino and the in-house ballet company.

An earlier arrangement of the material for ballet - based on music by Ferdinand Hérold - which premiered in Paris in 1829 , was made by the choreographer Jean-Pierre Aumer .

Web links

Commons : The Sleeping Beauty  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files