Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky’s fairy-tale ballet »The Sleeping Beauty« premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg in 1890, and has been considered one of the most challenging action ballets up to now. In 2007, Aaron S. Watkin staged this famous story in the tradition of Marius Petipa’s legendary choreography. For its revival in the 2023/24 season, Marcelo Gomes stages an adaptation of this classic, by adding some nuances of his own individual aesthetic style, and drawing on the essence of the popular fairy-tale: Princess Aurora's development from a child to a young woman. This includes the royal baptism in the circle of the good fairies, interrupted by demoniac fairy Carabosse, the attenuated fulfilment of her curse in the form of a hundred-year slumber and Aurora’s final reawakening after a prince’s kiss.
Prologue: At court
Having been waiting for this gift from mother nature for a long period of time, King Henry’s wife, Katharina, had given birth to a baby, who was to be named Aurora. In order to celebrate the princess’s baptism, the royal couple invited all the fairies of their kingdom to make them bestow the most precious gifts on the girl. However, their blessings are rudely interrupted by an unexpected guest–evil fairy Carabosse. Enraged at having been excluded from the festivities, she casts a devastating curse on Aurora: »On her 16th birthday, the princess shall prick herself on a spindle and die!« Fortunately, the Lilac Fairy, who was the last of the invited fairies not to have blessed Aurora at this point, manages to mitigate this fatal curse by turning it into a long and deep period of sleep. This spell was to include the entire court and could only be broken by the sincere love for the princess on part of a stranger.
Act 1: In the courtyard garden–about 16 years later
The court is pompously celebrating Aurora’s 16th birthday in the palace garden and guests from near and far have come to accompany the princess into her new year of life. Her special godmother, the Lilac Fairy, has also been invited in order to watch over the princess. Although King Henry had banned all spinning tools from his kingdom after Carabosse’s curse at his daughter, the evil fairy gains access to the royal garden party in disguise–and manages to foist a spindle among the crowd… Thus, the unavoidable happens: Aurora stabs herself on the spindle, followed by Carabosse revealing herself under malicious laughter. Nevertheless is the Lilac Fairy’s promise stronger: when the court party sets off in a great procession to the castle in order to lay Aurora up there, the second part of the spell is also fulfilled, as all the people gradually fall into a deep slumber. Even the castle grounds are affected by this enchantment, being overgrown by a dense rose hedge, of which the sharp thorns are not to let anyone enter the castle in the following decades...
Act 2: In the charmed forest–99 years later
In the meantime, everybody knows the legend of the sleeping beauty in the forest. Fascinated by this story, young Prince Florimund feels determined to discover the place where Aurora and the members of her court are supposed to sleep. Thus, he goes on a long journey… Carabosse appears as a lovely huntress and tries to distract him from his plan. Her henchmen take him off to an unknown place deep in the forest.
The seasons pass, and another year comes to an end.
In spring, Prince Florimund unconsciously arrives at the place where Aurora lies, amidst a dense forest. When he exhaustedly falls asleep at night, the Lilac Fairy sends him a dream of Aurora surrounded by nymphs. This vision encourages the prince and renews his hope to find his beloved, so that he continues his search–secretly guided by Aurora’s godmother and in spite of Carabosse’s evil sidekicks set upon him. Florimund is fully aware of the fact that he will have to pass several tasks and overcome malicious obstacles until he reaches his goal–precisely 100 years after the fairies’ spells had come into force. Borne by his love for Aurora, the prince weakens the evil fairy. Therefore, it is also easy for him to step through the thorn hedge: it even seems as if the branches and twigs open up in order to show him the way to Aurora. In the end, Florimund fulfils the Lilac Fairy’s promise by awakening the sleeping beauty with a kiss, after which they mutually declare their eternal love for each other. This sincere affection, the strongest of all invisible powers, finally leads to the mitigated curse being broken, so that Carabosse loses her magic power.
Act 3: At court
Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund have married and swear eternal allegiance to their new kingdom. The royal parents bless the couple. The Lilac Fairy, and further special guests of honour, is invited to pay homage to the young lovers. To honour the Lilac Fairy, the court is dressed in her colour. The two royal houses are unified and the whole court rejoices in celebration.