With the movie “Maleficent” due to be released May 30th, I got into a discussion about the different ways the “wicked” fairy has been portrayed in the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty and it reminded me of this book floating around on my book shelf, “Behind the Scenes at the Ballet: Rehearsing and Performing The Sleeping Beauty.”. It combines two of my favorite things, fairy tales and ballet. The ballet, with a score by Tchaikovsky, was based on Perrault’s version of the story, “La Belle au Boise Dormant.” But, instead of being completely faithful, it takes off in a rather brilliant direction and embraces its fairy tale-ness with an almost meta quality.
The wicked fairy, Carabosse
The benevolent and powerful Lilac fairy
On the Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday there is a grand party.
She receives gifts from many people, including (while her parents are distracted) a bouquet of flowers. The old woman is the fairy Carabosse in disguise. Hidden in the bouquet is a spindle, which Princess Aurora pricks her finger on, fulfilling the curse. This is also one of the best explanations for how Aurora manages to prick her finger. The versons where her parents are away on a trip didn’t make sense to me even as a child. Come on! They knew the curse was supposed to happen on her 16th birthday and they’re not watching her like a hawk?
100 years later Prince Florimund is dancing with his fiance, the Countess at a hunting party. He does not love her and finds her cold. He wanders off into the forest.
The Lilac fairy appears and shows him a vision of the Princess Aurora.
The Prince and Princess dance and the Lilac fairy explains the curse.
Prince Florimund is guided to the castle by the Lilac fairy, finds Aurora, and kisses her, breaking the enchantment.
The wedding guests include many fairy tale charcaters
The White Cat dances with Puss in Boots
Princess Florine and the Bluebird
Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
And finally Aurora and Florimund dance their pas de deaux.
The book also has behind the scenes photos. There are people sewing the ballet costumes. Dancers practicing. Ballet stage makeup being applied. And at the end a couple of photos of famous dancers such as Robert Helpmann as Carabosse (who can be played by either a man or a woman)-
and Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nurevev
I love the costuming of the Birmingham Royal Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty. The costumes are incredibly detailed and baroque.