Reawakening a world of courtly love, charming fairies and a glittering masked ball, The Australian Ballet’s dazzling production of The Sleeping Beauty tours to Melbourne and Sydney in 2017. Spectacularly reimagined by Artistic Director David McAllister, this extraordinary production returns to the stage following widespread critical acclaim and sell-out debut seasons in 2015.
Accompanied by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score and dressed in exquisite costumes by internationally renowned designer Gabriela Tylesova, a cast of royals and courtiers, fairies and wood nymphs, bluebirds and storybook characters bring new life to a classic story.
David McAllister’s interpretation remains faithful to the spirit of the original choreography of 19th century master Marius Petipa. Audiences will be delighted by the famously challenging balances of Princess Aurora’s Rose Adage, her romantic Wedding Grand Pas de deux with the Prince and the lively variations of the couple’s storybook friends.
Theatre designer Gabriela Tylesova has captivated audiences around the world with her richly imaginative sets and costumes, and has been honoured with multiple Helpmann and Green Room Awards. Her designs for The Sleeping Beauty evoke the splendour of Louis XIV’s court with breathtakingly opulent gilded sets and hundreds of colourful costumes, made with the attention to detail of haute couture. Garments of satin, tulle and silk are adorned with beads and faux fur, sequins and braid, crystals and cut-out lace.
Tchaikovsky was approached in 1888 by the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg, Ivan Vsevolozhsky about a possible ballet adaptation of the story of Undine. It was later decided that Charles Perrault’s La Belle au Bois Dormant (The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood) would be the story for which Tchaikovsky would compose ballet music.
Tchaikovsky did not hesitate to accept the commission, although he was aware that his only previous ballet, Swan Lake, had met with little enthusiasm at that stage of his career. The choreographer was Marius Petipa, ballet master of the Imperial Ballet, who wrote a very detailed list of instructions as to the musical requirements. Tchaikovsky worked quickly on the new work – in little more than a month during the winter of 1888, he sketched out a rough draft of the music.
He began orchestration in June 1889, working at Frolovskoe, the country estate of his mysterious patron, Madame Nadezhda von Meek. The score reveals an unusual and rarely displayed side of Tchaikovsky’s nature. It abounds in gay and tuneful themes that are the antithesis of his more sombre and intense symphonies and tone-poems. Possibly the happier tone of the music was the result of those rare moments of tranquillity which the composer felt while on holiday in the country.
Tchaikovsky was by all accounts highly pleased with his endeavours, placing the music for The Sleeping Beauty amongst his finest work. The ballet’s focus was on the two main conflicting forces of good (the Lilac Fairy) and evil (Carabosse); each is represented by a leitmotif, which runs through the entire ballet, serving as an important thread to the underlying plot. Aurora’s wedding scene, however, takes a complete break from the two motifs and instead places focus on the individual characters of the various court dances.
This production is the first full-length work by The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David McAllister, for whom creating The Sleeping Beauty in 2015 was a crowning moment in his career. In 2017 McAllister enters his 16th year as Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, following an 18-year career as a dancer in the company. The ballet has already been enjoyed by over 65,000 people, with sell-out seasons in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth following the world premiere in 2015.
Choreography: Marius Petipa Production and additional Choreography: David McAllister Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Costume and Set Design: Gabriela Tylesova Design Associate: Kat Chan Dramaturge: Lucas Jervies Lighting Design: Jon Buswell Conductors: Nicolette Fraillon and Simon Thew with Orchestra Victoria (in Melbourne) and Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (in Sydney) Featuring: Artists of The Australian Ballet
The Sleeping Beauty
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 16 – 27 June 2017
Capitol Theatre, Campbell Street, Haymarket (Sydney)
Season: 11 – 25 November 2017
For more information, visit: www.australianballet.com.au for details.
Image: Kevin Jackson and Lana Jones in The Australian Ballet’s 2015 production of The Sleeping Beauty – photo by Daniel Boud