WEB LECTURE            SLEEPING BEAUTY (1)     Episode about the birth                


Lecture held in Tokyo on Dec. 1, 2000.  Translated in Tokyo.   About 7 pages in A4.


     Introduction   6 Petipa and the Mariinsky Theatre
     1 Tsar who feared assassination and loved his family.   7 Collaboration with Tchaikovsky
     2 Relationship with France   8 Decorations and costumes
     3 Theatre and nobles   9 Premiere and the stage review
     4 Vsevolozhsky's vision  10 What makes it a masterpiece?
     5 Two epochs - Francis I and Louis XIV



Sergei Vikharev  

Sergei Vikharev: Good afternoon. Before starting the lecture, I would like to tell you that WEB Exhibition and WEB PhotoGallery are now open. If you see the exhibition and the photo gallery, you will be able to understand more deeply the contents of the lecture and both the original and reconstructed versions of Sleeping Beauty.
The restoration work started in 1997.
Assistant Director of Mariinsky Theatre Ballet Troupe and Chief Editor of Mariinsky Theatre Newspaper, Pavel Gershenzon, has worked as a member of reconstruction work as a curator. He also introduced me to Elena Fedosova, who is a curator of the St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.

The reconstructed version of the Sleeping Beauty premiered in 1999. After that, the production also made its premiere in Metropolitan Opera House in New York, a festival in Baden-Baden, Germany and in the Covent Garden in London. Now it's here in Tokyo. It took a long time to gather the materials for reconstruction and it was a long journey. You will be able to understand that through the lecture and the exhibition. Thank you.

Elena Fedosova

Elena Fedosova When you come to Tokyo and look at the surrounding buildings, I think you can understand their functional role and aesthetics. But when you see the architecture created by the people in the past, it is often difficult to imagine what is the meaning the architecture indicates and how much energy was spent for it. The Sleeping Beauty can be exactly called a great construction of the past. Fortunately, materials indicating the purpose of the creators and their tastes are left in our hands.  







1 Tsar who feared assassination and loved his family


The original production of Sleeping Beauty was premiered in 1890. Russia at that time was under tsarism and in the reign of Alexander III. The influence of the Tsar who was at the top of Russian society was tremendous. Everything in that age including artistic preferences, censorship and decorative fashions were determined by the Tsar's taste. Not only the preferences shown in public matters but the Tsar's family, private life also affected the society. Tsar's life style was reflected on the stage of Sleeping Beauty. It can be said that the Sleeping Beauty was created influenced by the assassination of Alexander III's father. Alexander III had long feared the next attempt on his life. So he moved his major quarter to the suburbs and lived with his family without any official activity.

Emperor Alexander III, 1890s

Along with their seclusion, gatherings in St. Petersburg's society died out. Frequently held balls and receptions were not given any more. The center of society moved to the Theatre and it was the only place where the imperial family could be seen except in the military parade or Imperial duma.

Marrinsky Theatre in 1900s.



When Tsar was coming to the Theatre, it was publicly notified in advance. All the celebrity gathered then. To the first performance of Sleeping Beauty, 300 people came from the palace besides 64 members of the imperial family. Considering that their presence in the theatre was obligatory, you can understand what type of people watched the Mariinsky Theatre's performances. The photo you are watching now shows the place where the receptions were held in Mariinsky Theatre for the people in high-society.

Imperial Mariinsky Theatre's main foyer, 1897.



Tsar liked to come to the Theatre with his children. They rested there during the intermissions of Sleeping Beauty.

Imperial Mariinsky Theatre's foyer for the tsar, 1897.

2 Relationship with France


The birth of Sleeping Beauty was influenced not only by Tsar's preference but also by the social situation at the end of 19th century Russia. Until then, Russia had been traditionally in close relation with Germany in terms of culture and economics. Russia also had genealogical ties with the Germanic race. Mode, literature and arts also came from Germany. Political conflict against Germany erupted and it could be possible that only France was allied to Russia. The Theatre then decided to show the fairyland, France, on the stage. Theatres at the time were operated by the personal assets of the imperial family. There were five “Imperial” Theatres. Tsar paid the money without hesitation if Theatres claimed they needed funds for performances. The expense that almost equaled the cost of two warships of the time was spent for Sleeping Beauty.


3 Theatres and nobles


The photo now you are watching shows Ivan Alexandrovich Vsevolozhsky, the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg and Moscow. He became a director after having served as a top Russian diplomat in France. He was a very influential courtier, and his position, the director of the Imperial Theatre was equivalent to the Minister. This wealthy nobleman with peculiar tastes wanted to express his own life in theatrical art.

Director of Imperial Theatres I. A. Vsevolozhsky, 1899.


The residence of the Director of Imperial Theatres was located facing the Theatre, just having a distance from this podium to that wall. Vsevolozhsky, however, never walked to the Theatre but rode the carriage for commuting. Going to the Theatre those days was like a sacred ritual and there existed solemn rules. For instance, there were dress codes for ladies. A wealthy nobleman's wife, Messherskaya came to the Theatre once wearing a huge diamond which was inherited in her family. Tsarina Maria Fedrovna who was in the next box seat was wearing pearls at that time, so a court lady who attended Tsarina told Lady Messherskaya to remove her diamond. It was not allowed to put on a more luxurious jewelry than Tsarina's. Lady Messherskaya went out of the theatre because it was very impolite for ladies to come to the theatre without any decoration around their necks. Such ceremonial etiquette, order and strict social hierarchy were also reflected on stage performances.


4 Vsevolozhsky's vision


In these internal life conditions in Russia and external situation, Vsevolozhsky conceived the idea on the Sleeping Beauty. Vsevolozhsky got the idea of the ballet and wrote the libretto of this ballet. His name did not appear in the poster but he actually wrote the libretto. He thought that it was a shame to put his name in the poster as a librettist because he was a director. The plot of the ballet, the base for writing the libretto, was taken from a French fairy tale of Charles Perrault. Russians liked this Perrault's tale very much and it became popular as soon as it was translated after publication. The tale was composed of eight stories. In the ballet “Sleeping Beauty”, the characters from these eight stories appear.


In the story of a princess who wakes up after 100 years of sleep, fairies appear besides human beings. We are often asked who are those fairies. They are immortal existences who appear in fairy tales. Good fairies are always young and bad fairies are always old.

Lilac Fairy and her pages, Act 1, 1890.



Carabosse you are watching now is never shown in a form of a young fairy on the stage but appears old and evil from the beginning.

Fee Carabosse and her squires, 1890.



Vsevolozhsky had named these fairies. Fairies were just like the guardian angels. They were supposed to be the saviors for Tsar who had to live a secluded life in his house. Fee Canari (Canary fairly) makes a comfortable home and protects it, and Fee Fleur de farine (Wheat flower fairy) protects foods and always fills a house with foods.

Fee Canari and her pages, Prologue, 1890.



Fee Miettes qui tombent (Breadcrumbs fairly) represents care and thoughtfulness. Fee Violante (Temperament fairly) symbolizes passion, warmth, flame and a furnace. Vevolozhsky added these hidden meanings to each fairly in a hope for a comfortable household. Such ideas had originally existed but were changed later on the stage.

Fee Mietts qui tombent and her page, Prologue, 1890.

When Vsevolozhsky wrote the libretto of the Sleeping Beauty, he wanted to tell of the French history that made a transition from chaos to harmony. His first idea was to show the splendid Versailles age of Louis XIV and the magnificent style of absolute monarchy. Now, we would like you to remember that Vsevolozhsky was a courtier and he was working over the issues on which Russia concluded the economic and political agreement with the Republic of France later. Therefore, he wanted to express the glorious French monarchism in the ballet. When a French fleet visited St. Petersburg on a good will mission a year before the premiere of the Sleeping Beauty, La Marseillais was played to welcome them*. The Russian Tsar removed his hat and shed tears of joy and of desire for establishing a friendly relation with France. People of that age joked that the Tsar, for all that, heard an anthem praising a French monarchism in the Finale of Sleeping Beauty.

*Since they had no political relations, the ceremony was held on ships at a port near St. Petersburg. (from Vsevolozhsky's memoirs)


5 Two epochs - Francis I and Louis XIV


In Perrault's story, the princess slept for 100 years. The ballet dates back approximately 100 to 120 years from Louis XIV's era, and the plot of the ballet develops in two time periods. Vsevolozhsky worked as a designer as well as a librettist of the Sleeping Beauty. He was in charge of costume design but also presented ideas for scenic design. This is the sketch of the background for Act II. Although Vsevolozhsky did not draw it, the scenic designers precisely reproduced the idea of the librettist. In the beginning of the ballet, the decorations show the 16th century France. If you have a close look at this sketch, you can easily understand that the designer faithfully followed the request “to imitate the Palace of Fontainbleau in the age of French monarchy. This is the room of the mistress of Francis I, Lady D'Etamp.

K. Ivanov's backdrop sketch of “Inner Chambers of the Castle of the Sleeping Beauty”, Act 2, 1889.



This photo shows the costumes designed by Vsevolozhsky which were used in the first act. They were designed after the style in the Francis I's age. He arranged to ballet costumes the type of outfits the people in that age had actually worn. Among the audiences who saw the premiere of the reconstructed version and the 1890 original production as well, some showed distaste for vivid and colorful costumes. However, a variety of color was the reflection of the paintings in the age of Francis I. Vsevolozhsky had some meanings to the costume of each character, but it is difficult for the modern people to assume those meanings.

Aurora, Queen, King Florestan XIV, Lilac Fairy, and courtiers, Act 1, 1890.



Shown in this photo are the costumes of four suitors in Act I, and Vsevolozhsky designed a different costume to each prince because they were supposed to come from different kingdoms to see the princess. One who on his knees is a prince from Germany and is wearing the same type of cloth worn by Albert Durer in his self portrait.. The prince at the right is from Spain, the one on the left is a French prince and at the back is the Italian prince. The audiences usually do not much care about or notice who comes from which country, but the costume designer enjoyed creating these costumes considering each prince's nationality.

Princess Aurora, Prince Cheri, Prince Charmant, Prince Fortune, and Prince Fleur de Pois, Act 1, 1890.



The next one is a costume for Peasant Waltz, which has motifs of the medieval paintings. Princess Aurora was born in the Kingdom of Florestan, old France, the 16th century France.

Vsevolozhsky's Sketch
for Peasant Waltz. Act 1. 1889.




When she woke up, it was already the age of Louis XIV's, the new era.

  Francis I: 1494 - 1547
  Louis XIV: 1638 - 1715

In this way, the historical ranges of the things that happen on the stage are shown. Actually, it had been more than 100 years, but Princess Aurora's long sleep was indicated by a change in decoration. The decoration of ballet changes accordingly. This is the view of the Palace of Versailles which was used as a model by designers who handled the scenic decoration of this ballet.

Palace of Versailles viewed from the park.
Print by I Silvestre.




This is the sketch of the last scene, Apotheosis, by Shishkov, a scenic designer.

M. Shishkov's
backdrop sketch of
“Apotheosis, Gloire des Fees”,
Act 3, 1889.




This is the photograph of Apotheosis on the stage.

Imperial Mariinsky Ballet “Sleeping Beauty”,
Apotheosis, 1890.




The costumes also change according to the needs. This is the costume imitating the outfit worn in balls or banquets in palace in the reign of Louis XIV.

Princess Auroa and Prince Desire
in wedding costumes and Aurora's
pages, Act 3, 1890.




Prince Desire wore the costume which already had lost the vividness and contrast in color but expressed the harmony of colors seen in the era of Sun King (Louis XIV). Vsevolozhsky did all the preparation works such as idea, rough plot of the ballet, its development, libretto and works with designers.

Costume of Prince Desire in Act 2
. Made in the Imperial Theatres' costume
workshops after Vsevolozhsky's sketch.


Pavel Gershenzon

Pavel Gershenzon :  
As mentioned previously, the director of Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, planned to stage Sleeping Beauty and Vsevolozhsky himself wrote the libretto.


6 Petipa and the Mariinsky Theatre


For creating a ballet production, the ballet master and the composer are necessary, of course. Needless to say, the ballet master had already been chosen. It can be said that Europe's greatest ballet company existed in St. Petersburg at that time and it was Marius Petipa, the chief ballet master, who led the Company. This is the photo of Petipa.

Ballet Master
Marius Ivanovich Petipa.
Photo taken in 1896.


To begin with, I will talk about how the ballet company in St.Petersburg was formed. It was the “Imperial” or so to speak, Tsar's ballet company. The structure of the ballet company was very similar to that of Russian Empire. The Empire was a hierarchical society which consisted of the lowest class, the middle or higher classes and the Tsar at the top. The ballet company in St. Petersburg also had a similar system of ranks. The lowest rank is Corps de ballet (group dancers), the next comes Coryphee then Premiere danseuse or Prima ballerina at the top. Hierarchy in the ballet company was determined according to the level of mastership as a dancer. The Corps de ballet was composed of the dancers who graduated from St. Peterburg's ballet school. Since dancers who graduated the same ballet school organized the Corps de ballet, a unified style was formed. Dancers rose through the ranks to higher position. Some were slow in promotion, and some were fast. A dancer in Corps de ballet moves up to a Coryphée then became a Danceur noble or a Prima ballerina. The Imperial Theatres Directorate invited Italian ballerinas to dance in the Sleeping Beauty because the ballet techniques in Italy were further ahead of St. Petersburg's ballet. Italian ballerinas had the best technique at that time. They showed number of splendid techniques so the audience of St. Petersburg was very much delighted. Italian ballerinas first danced at private theatres in St. Petersburg and their performances were highly successful with so mush praises from the audience. The Directorate of Imperial Theatres then had to invite the Italian ballerinas. Due to such situation, an Italian ballerina, Carlotta Brianza, danced the title role in the first performance of Sleeping Beauty. Marius Petipa was at the top of hierarchy in St. Petersburg's ballet. He was a French ballet master who came to Russia in 1847 and was employed by the Imperial Theatre as a dancer. Later he started receiving orders for creating ballet productions. He had produced “The Pharaoh's daughter”, “La Bayadere”, “Don Quixote” and “Le Corsair” before doing the Sleeping Beauty. He created so many ballet productions and these are the only famous ones. In 1890, Petipa was already 72 years old. In a modern sense, he was a very old ballet master. In the time of producing the Sleeping Beauty, Petipa was artistically in crisis. He was criticized that he was making the same style of ballet again and again, and was threatened by the Imperial Theatre Directorate to discontinue the contract. However, Ivan Vsevolozhsky trusted Petipa's talent and believed that he would and must materialize the idea of the Sleeping Beauty.

7 Collaboration with Tchaikovsky  

The next problem was to whom the composition of music should be asked. Vsevolozhsky wanted to ask Tchaikovsky to do so if he would accept it. However, at that time, Tchaikovsky basically did not want to compose another ballet music because he had already composed his first one, Swan Lake, which ended in failure in Moscow. This had disappointed him very much and he decided not to score ballet music anymore. However, Vsevolozhsky wrote a letter to him and enclosed the libretto. Tchaikovsky replied to Vsevolozhsky as soon as he had read the libretto and wrote “I will compose the ballet music because I was very much impressed by the libretto and liked the story.”

Composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Photo taken in 1887.

A composer and a ballet master were chosen in this way. Now they had to start working together. Vsevolozhsky wrote the literary libretto and handed it to Petipa. Petipa then had to make an elaborate plan for the ballet. At this point, music was not ready, yet. Petipa made a choreographic plan in full details, for example; the first number – march, the tempo, the number of measures, for example, 160 measures. Every part of the ballet was written like this. In Prologue, for instance, it started with the march and moved to Scene dansante, Pas de six, Variation by fairies and to Carabosse's appearance. Petipa wrote out the whole of the ballet in this manner. He gave his plan to Tchaikovsky in sequence, and he composed the music as requested by Petipa. He composed the march at the specified tempo with 160 measures. In this way, he gradually composed the whole music for the ballet. Petipa and Tchaikovsky went on in collaboration like masters. Tchaikovsky sometimes was full of inspiration and wrote number of music but other times, nothing could be done. However, their work progressed in speed as if carried on a belt conveyer. Vsevolozhsky often invited Tchaikovsky and Petipa to his director's room where Tchaikovsky played the new score and Petipa listened to it. At this stage, Petipa sometimes changed his plan; for example, cut the measures from 48 to 24. Tchaikovsky always agreed with Petipa's opinion. He was a very modest man and said “I will do anything what Marius Ivanovich (Petipa) wants to do.“ Petipa once said, “You don't have to score this number yet because I have to discuss with the ballerina if she can keep dancing such a long music or becomes capable of dancing so long.” Vsevolozhsky also showed the scenic sketches and maquettes made by designers to Petipa and Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky wrote in one of his letters, “I visited Vsevolozhsky yesterday and saw the sketches and maquettes for Sleeping Beauty. This ballet should become a splendid piece of work.” The collaboration among Tchaikovsky, Vsevolozhsky and Petipa went on. Vsevolozhsky was a genuine project manager. Under his command was the enormous producing , enormous creating power, the enormous production of the Imperial Theatres.

8 Decorations and costumes  

This is the room where the costumes were tailored for male dancers of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg. The room was on the theatre street where the present Vaganova Ballet Academy is located.

Men's costume workshop of the Imperial Theatres Directorate in 1890s.



The next photograph shows the room of scenic decorations in the Mariinsky Theatre. The room is right under the roof of the Theatre and above the audience seats. Scenic decorations were drawn here. The room is still in use. The most skilled art staff in Europe had concentrated in the Mariinsky at that time.

Imperial Mariinsky Theatre's decor hall in 1890s.



This photo shows the same room of scenic decorations, and the man sitting at the right is Lanbin. The man on his feet is Korovin, a famous designer who took charge of stage decorations for Don Quixote together with Golovin.

Imperial Mariinsky Theatre's decor
hall in 1900s. Konstantin Korovin
and Peter Lambin at right.




Now, this is the place for making female dancers' costumes, which is also located in the street where Vaganova Ballet Academy is. They sew costumes and drew decorations here, but before that, sketches and maquettes were prepared by designers.

Women's costume workshop of the Imperial Theatres Directorate in 1890s.



This is a part of the maquette, the model of the scene “Panorama” in the Sleeping Beauty, assembled 100 years ago and is still preserved in St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music. In the reconstruction work, today's designers made decorations seeing this maquette with their naked eyes. It took approximately two years to produce the Sleeping Beauty.

Bocharov's fragment of the original maquette for Act 2, “Forest area and Panorama”, 1889.


9 Premiere and the stage review


As for the dances, Petipa had choreographed the ballet in three months. He started working in September 1889 and as you may know, the premiere was on January 3, 1890. The date of the premiere was postponed three times because the stage sets and costumes were not ready yet.

Premiere poster for the ballet
“Sleeping Beauty”, 3 January, 1890,
the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.




The ballet was produced precisely with Japanese accuracy. With such accuracy, Vsevolozhsky tried to record the Sleeping Beauty. In other words, he took photos of every act, every important scene. He was well aware that they were creating a masterpiece. These photos are still conserved in the St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatres and Music, and you can see some of them in the Web Exhibition. They were very helpful for the reconstruction work of today.

Ballet “Sleeping Beauty”.
Prologue. “King Florestan's castle”.
The Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. 1890.


On January 2, 1890, the final full rehearsal was staged, it was a day-time rehearsal, and Alexandre III attended. As Elena Fedosova has previously explained, due to the security matter, Alexandre was not seated in Tsar's seat on the balcony but the first raw of the pit. The final rehearsal and the premiere went very strange. Perfect, amazing success was not gained. Having seen the rehearsal, Tsar simply said “Very nice”, a well-known comment. Tchaikovsky was very disappointed. At first, the performance was not a success but tickets sold out in a moment. The ballet was staged 25 times in the first year. This is not difficult to understand since the Mariinsky Theatre used to present ballet performances twice a week. The Sleeping Beauty was on through the year and a number of stage reviews were written. Journalists criticized harshly. It seemed that they felt the performance was too serious; the music was serious, dances were few and choreography was not interesting. In spite of such criticism, the music and dances were not changed. Gradually, the journalists, balletomanes and audiences got used to the music and dances. Journalists are always inpatient. They had to write comments in time to be printed in the morning paper of the next day of the premier. They did not have time to think. They were in a hurry. The magazine critics, however, had more time and wrote positive comments than newspapers. The Sleeping Beauty impressed and excited the elite, the intelligentsia, the elite of arts, and the elite of Russia. They were the most advanced people in Russia, in terms of arts. The most positive comments were written by Alexandre Benois. I would like to summarize the review written by Benois.

10 What makes it a masterpiece?  

Why is the Sleeping Beauty, in the form produced by Petipa, an exceptional piece of ballet. The St. Petersburg Imperial ballet was the artistic model of the Imperial society, the Empire. And the Sleeping Beauty was the model to show how the Imperial ballet was composed. For that purpose, this piece was made in a very large scale. Tchaikovsky helped making it. He fulfilled Petipa's plan and also fulfilled his own plan. He did not compose the Sleeping Beauty as a sequence of numbers as requested by Petipa. He succeeded in composing the first-ever musical creation for ballet, as a symphonic creation. A symphony is a large-scale art form. Marius Petipa responded to the symphony like an echo and choreographed the ballet. Before the Sleeping Beauty, Petipa already had experienced a large-scale dance form called “Grand pas classique”. The Kingdom of Shades scene in La Bayadere was formed in Grand pas classique style but it was only a fragment of the entire ballet. In the Sleeping Beauty, however, not only the entire ballet but also each act is in the form of large classical style. We will talk about the Sleeping Beauty's structure in details later. Thank you very much.

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Sleeping Beauty (2)