Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

The Sleeping Beauty, ballet, Op. 66

    Description by Wayne Reisig

    While ballet enjoyed a golden age in the mid-nineteenth century, it is generally acknowledged that the music accompanying that medium did not flourish in tandem with the other components. Even in so celebrated a work as Giselle, only a balletomane would not be hard pressed to hum one of its tunes. This is by no means a criticism, for the music specified for a production was to be functional. It can be argued that Tchaikovsky is the first composer of great ballet scores, infusing them with his trademark tunefulness, emotion, and drama. Long an admirer of dance, the composer placed the same amount of effort into his three great dance scores as he would into his symphonic and operatic works. For the first time, suites from the ballets could be performed sans staging and choreography for a purely musical experience.

    After the less-than-promising 1877 debut of Swan Lake, marred by a largely amateur production, over a decade lapsed before the composer was commissioned by the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg to supply music for a ballet on the Perrault fairy tale, The Sleeping Beauty. Tchaikovsky threw himself arms-deep into the project. Not only was the composer again on happy turf, he was currently in a state of delight by the occasional presence of the three-year old daughter of a friend's servant; despite his celebrated melancholy, children seemed to tap a joyful vein in Tchaikovsky, the feeling reciprocated in his capacity to be mischievous or silly at their level. The little girl's proximity fed a spirit of fantasy which transmitted to this most lighthearted of the composer's scores. Most musicologists and historians concede that Sleeping Beauty is the most perfectly wrought of Tchaikovsky's three ballet scores, classic in its restraint, especially when compared with the hyper-Romanticism of its predecessor Swan Lake or the seasonal whimsy of The Nutcracker, yet possessing the right amount of color and panache to render it pure Tchaikovsky; its waltz remains a Pops favorite.

    The well-known story of the ballet opens with Princess Aurora's christening at the royal court. Rejoicing quickly fades with the uninvited appearance of the evil fairy Carabosse, who places a curse on the princess, preordaining that at 16 Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into an enchanted sleep. This comes to pass but the spell is at long last broken by Prince Charming, who forges through barriers of enchantment to kiss and awaken Aurora. The enlarged final act is a wedding celebration at which many other celebrated fairy tale characters are present. This act alone is often performed as Aurora's Wedding.

    Sleeping Beauty was premiered to great acclaim and success, with choreography by the great Marius Petipa at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 1, 1890. In 1921, Diaghilev remounted the work for a notable London production.


    1. Introduction
    2. March (No. 1). Entrance of King and Court
    3. Dance Scena (No. 2). Entrance of Fairies
    4. Pas de Six (No. 3a). Fairies present gifts. Intrada - Adagio
    5. Pas de Six (No. 3b). Variation 1 Candile
    6. Pas de Six (No. 3c). Variation 2 Coulante
    7. Pas de Six (No. 3d). Variation 3 Breadcrumb
    8. Pas de Six (No. 3e) Variation 4 Canaries
    9. Pas de Six (No. 3f). Variation 5 Violente
    10. Pas de Six (No. 3g). Variation 6 Lilac Fairy (Waltz)
    11. Pas de Six (No. 3h). Coda
    12. Finale (No. 4). La Fée des lilas sort
    13. Scena (No. 5). The Palace Garden
    14. Waltz (No. 6).
    15. Scena (No. 7). The Four Princes
    16. Pas d'action (No. 8a). Introduction (Andante) and Rose Adagio
    17. Pas d'action (No. 8b). Dance of the Maids of Honor & Pages
    18. Pas d'action (No. 8c). Aurora's Variation
    19. Pas d'action (No. 8d). Coda
    20. Finale (No. 9). La Fée des lilas paraît
    21. Entr'acte & Scena (No. 10)
    22. Blind Man's Buff (Colin-Maillard) (No. 11) (Allegro vivo)
    23. Scena (No. 12a). (Moderato)
    24. Scena (No. 12b).Dance of the Duchesses (Minuet)
    25. Scena (No. 12c).Dance of the Baronesses (Gavotte)
    26. Scena (No. 12d).Dance of the Countesses
    27. Scena (No. 12e).Dance of the Marchionesses
    28. Farandole (No. 13a). Scena
    29. Farandole (No. 13b). Danse (Tempo di Mazurka)
    30. Scena (No. 14). Arrival of the Huntsmen
    31. Coda (No. 15a). Pas d'action. Vision
    32. Coda (No. 15b). Aurora's Variation (Allegro comodo)
    33. Coda (No. 15c)
    34. Scena (No. 16) (Allegro agitato)
    35. Panorama (No. 17) (Andantino)
    36. Entr'acte (No. 18) (Andante sostenuto)
    37. Symphonic Entr'acte (No. 19): Aurora's Sleep & Scena
    38. Finale (No. 20). Breaking of Spell (Allegro agitato)
    39. March (No. 21)
    40. Polonaise (No. 22) (Allegro moderato)
    41. Pas de Quatre (No. 23a). Intrada (Allegro non tanto)
    42. Pas de Quatre (No. 23b). Gold Fairy. Valse
    43. Pas de Quatre (No. 23c). Silver Fairy. Polka
    44. Pas de Quatre (No. 23d). Sapphire Fairy
    45. Pas de Quatre (No. 23e). Diamond Fairy
    46. Pas de Quatre (No. 23f). Coda
    47. Pas de caractère (No. 24). Puss-in-Boots & the White Cat
    48. Pas de Quatre (No. 25a). Adagio
    49. Pas de Quatre (No. 25b). Variation 1 Cinderella and Prince (Waltz)
    50. Pas de Quatre (No. 25c). Variation 2 The Blue Bird and Princess Florine
    51. Pas de Quatre (No. 25d). Coda
    52. Pas de caractère (No. 26). Little Red Riding-Hood & the Wolf
    53. Pas de caractère (No. 26). Cinderella & Prince Fortuné
    54. Pas Berrichon (No. 27). Hop 'o my Thumb
    55. Pas de Deux (No. 28a). Aurora & Prince Desiré (Allegro and Waltz)
    56. Pas de Deux (No. 28b). Entree
    57. Pas de Deux (No. 28c). Adagio
    58. Pas de Deux (No. 28d). Prince's Variation
    59. Pas de Deux (No. 28e). Aurora's Variation
    60. Pas de Deux (No. 28f). Coda
    61. Sarabande (No. 29)
    62. Finale (No. 30a). Mazurka (Allegro brillante)
    63. Finale (No. 30b). Apotheosis (Andante molto maestoso)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 ICA Classics ICAC 5144
    2017 Chandos CHSA 52045
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295974893
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794646
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94949BR
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002243
    2013 Opus KURA OPK 7066/67
    2012 Chandos CHSA 51132
    2012 Decca
    2012 Melodiya MELCD 1001951
    2011 Decca
    2011 RPO RPOSP030
    2011 Apex / WEA Apex Classics 67865
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099996702
    2010 Classical Records 129
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099996768
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94031
    2009 Decca
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Decca / Eloquence 4800560
    2008 Kultur 2113
    2007 Belair Classiques BAC030
    2007 Kultur 1280
    2007 EMI Music Distribution 93238
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 62560
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000345202
    2004 EMI Classics 85788
    2003 RCA Red Seal 55707
    2002 BBC Legends 4091
    2001 Audiophile Classics / Audiophile Records 101756
    2000 Decca 467 403-2DEQ
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 457634
    1999 Decca 4604112
    1999 Angel Records / Warner Classics 7243573624
    1996 Royal Opera House Heritage Series 012
    1995 Philips 446166
    1994 Naxos 550490
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 54814
    1993 Philips 434922
    1991 Naxos 8550490492
    Spectrum Classical 4052
    Pickwick 33
    Mezhdunarodnaya-Kniga 417117
    EMI Music Distribution 4458
    RCA 61682
    Melodiya 1000406-408
    BBC Archive 3003
    Conifer 16075
    London 425468