Sleeping Beauty ("La Belle au Bois dormant") is a fairy tale classic, the first in the set published in 1697 by Charles Perrault, Contes de ma Mère l'Oye ("Mother Goose Tales"). Elements of the story are contained in Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone (published 1634), in the tale Sun, Moon and Talia (ch. 39). Professor J. R. R. Tolkien noted that Perrault's cultural presence is so pervasive that, when asked to name a fairy tale, most people will cite one of the eight stories in Perrault's collection. Since Tolkien's generation, however, the most familiar Sleeping Beauty has become the Walt Disney animated film (1959), which draws as much from the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet (Saint Petersburg, 1890) as from Perrault. More than many fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty partakes of many deep European myths, both pagan and Christian.
The basic elements of Perrault's narrative are in two parts.
At the christening of a long-wished-for princess, fairies invited as godmothers offered gifts of beauty, wit, grace, and musical talents. However, a wicked fairy who had been overlooked placed the princess under an enchantment as her gift, saying that, on reaching adulthood, she would prick her finger on a spindle and die.
A good fairy, though unable to reverse the spell, altered its effect so that the princess, instead of dying, would fall asleep for a hundred years, until awakened by the sweet kiss of a prince's son.
The king forbade spinning on distaff or spindle, or the possession of one, upon pain of death, throughout the kingdom, but all in vain. When the princess was fifteen or sixteen she chanced to come upon an old woman in a tower of the castle, who was spinning. The Princess asked to try the unfamiliar task and the inevitable happened. The wicked fairy's curse was fulfilled. The good fairy returned and put everyone in the castle to sleep.
Eventually, a prince arrived, and, hearing the story of the enchantment, braved the wood, which parted at his approach, and entered the castle. He trembled upon seeing the princess' beauty and fell on his knees before her. She woke up, then everyone in the castle woke to continue where they had left off... and, in modern versions, they all lived happily ever after.
Secretly wed by the reawakened Royal almoner, the Prince continued to visit the Princess, who bore him two children, L'Aurore and Le Jour, which he kept secret from the Queen his Fairy god mother, who was of an Ogre lineage. Once he had acceded to the throne, he brought the Princess and the children to his capital, which he then left in the regency of the Queen Mother, while he went to make war on his neighbor the Emperor Contalabutte, ("Count of The Mount").
The Ogre Queen sent the Princess Queen and the children to a house secluded in the woods, and directed her cook there to prepare the boy for her dinner, with a sauce Robert. The humane cook substituted a lamb, which satisfied the Ogre Queen, who demanded the girl, but was satisfied with a young goat prepared in the same excellent sauce. When the Ogre Queen demanded that he serve up the Princess Queen, she offered her throat to be slit, so that she might join the children she imagined were dead. There was a tearful secret reunion in the cook's little house, while the Ogre Queen was satisfied with a hind prepared with sauce Robert. Soon she discovered the trick and prepared a tub in the courtyard filled with vipers and other noxious creatures. The King returned in the nick of time and the Ogress, being discovered, threw herself into the pit she had prepared and was consumed, and everyone else lived happily ever after.
Sleeping Beauty in music
Before Tchaikovsky's version, several ballet productions were based on the "sleeping beauty" theme, amongst which one from Eugène Scribe: in the winter of 1828–1829, the French playwright furnished a four-act mimed scenario as a basis for Aumer's choreography of a four-act ballet-pantomime La Belle au bois dormant. Scribe wisely omitted the violence of the second part of Perrault's tale for the ballet, which was set by Hérold and first staged at the Académie Royale, Paris, April 27, 1829. Though Hérold popularized his piece with a piano Rondo brilliant based on themes from the music, he was not successful in getting the ballet staged again.
When Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the Director of the Imperial Theatres in Saint Petersburg, wrote to Tchaikovsky on May 25, 1888, suggesting a ballet based on Perrault's tale, he also cut the violent second half, climaxed the action with the Awakening Kiss, and followed with a conventional festive last act, a series of bravura variations.
Although Tchaikovsky was maybe not all that eager to compose a new ballet (remembering that the reception of his Swan Lake ballet music, staged eleven seasons earlier, had only been lukewarm), he set to work with Vsevolovsky's scenario. The ballet, with Tchaikovsky's music (his Opus 66) and choreography by Marius Petipa, was premiered in the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre on January 24, 1890.
Besides being Tchaikovsky's first major success in ballet composition, it set a new standard for what is now called "Classical Ballet", and remained one of the all time favourites in the whole of the ballet repertoire. Sleeping Beauty was the first ballet that impresario Sergei Diaghilev ever saw, he later recorded in his memoirs, and also the first that ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Galina Ulanova ever saw, and the ballet that introduced the Russian dancer Rudolph Nureyev to European audiences. Diaghilev staged the ballet himself in 1921 in London with the Ballets Russes. Choreographer George Balanchine made his stage debut as a gilded Cupid sitting on a gilded cage, in the last act divertissements.
Mimed and danced versions of the ballet survived in the distinctly British genre of pantomime, with Carabosse, the evil fairy, a famous travesti role.
Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty
Uses of Sleeping Beauty