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The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet by P. I. Tchaikovsky

The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet by P. I. Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky's three ballets are highlights in the genre, each in its own right. The Russian composer is largely credited with elevating dance composition to unparalleled heights, and this season the audience at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma will appreciate the unique musicality of Tchaikovsky's second ballet, The Sleeping Beauty.

Although his dance works are universally revered nowadays, Tchaikovsky was not always a ballet wonder. His first effort, Swan Lake, had a less-than-successful run at the time of its premiere, and the composer took over a decade to return to the genre. Nevertheless, when a commission for a new ballet came, the maestro took it enthusiastically.

Imperial Ballet Director Ivan Vsevolozhsky recruited Tchaikovsky to provide music based on Charles Perrault's classic fairy-tale La Belle au bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty). Vsevolozhsky's interpretation included elements from Brothers Grimm's version of the tale as well as many other fantasy characters, such as Puss in Boots, Cinderella, The Blue Bird, and Beauty and the Beast, among others.

Tchaikovsky, clearly inspired by the fairy-tale themes, produced a playful, rich score in little time. He worked closely with legendary Imperial Ballet choreographer Marius Petipa, whose precise instructions and strict demands directed the maestro's compositional efforts. The Sleeping Beauty was premiered on 15 January 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, to overwhelmingly positive reviews.

The plot follows the classic fairy-tale closely and focuses on the good-vs-evil battle between the Lilac Fairy and the evil Carabosse as a young princess is born and cursed to prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a 100-year sleep on her 16th birthday. Prince Charming breaks the spell with true love's kiss, and the two share a magical wedding, accompanied by many other beloved characters.

The Sleeping Beauty is often heralded as Tchaikovsky's most perfect ballet score in the sense that music and dance are in perfect harmony. The composer exercises musical restraint, a move away from the dramatics of Swan Lake, while still delivering imaginative, memorable melodies. Among them, the waltz from Act I is an all-time favourite and classic Tchaikovsky.

The fantastic tale and evocative music of The Sleeping Beauty come to the stage of Teatro Costanzi, Rome’s Opera House this season!

image Rome Opera House / Silvia Lelli / Teatro dell'Opera di Roma