Fri, Jan. 27, 2023, 7.00 pm - 10.15 pm | Main Stage
TO BE READ BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE
by John Neumeier
Why did I return to a fairytale ballet such as "The Sleeping Beauty" after such a long time?
Firstly, I am still fascinated by the German title "Dornröschen", i. e. thorn-rose, but also by similar titles in Danish, Dutch and many other languages. All of them suggest the close relationship between roses and thorns. Just as in the famous Handel aria "Lascia la spina" (Avoid the thorn), they associate pleasure with danger, beauty with pain. To show this inherent opposition in my new version, I have re-named the Evil Fairy (Carabosse) simply The Thorn and the Good Fairy (Lilac Fairy) The Rose, as in "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
"The Sleeping Beauty" holds a special place within the ballet repertoire. It is the final masterpiece of classical academic dance in St. Petersburg featuring choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. For a company like the Hamburg Ballet, it is vital to have this great work in its repertoire! After carefully considering whether I should start from scratch once again and simply throw away the old production, I decided, for ecological as well as economic reasons, on another course of action.
At the opening of our new Workshop Building in 2018, I was struck by the beauty and condition of a wedding costume from the 1978 production of "The Sleeping Beauty". I thought at the time: "Why should we not use these wonderful costumes which are so elaborately constructed from expensive fabrics?" Also, it would have been a shame to throw away Jürgen Rose's backdrops which were painted with such great artistic craftmanship – just to present something new.
When thinking of producing a new version of "The Sleeping Beauty", I still consider it best to present a carefully researched version of the traditional choreography with modern dramaturgy. The concept I developed in 1978, still seems valid. At that time, almost 100 years had passed since the premiere of Petipa's original ballet. I therefore had a prince of today encounter a princess who, following her 100 years slumber, still expressed herself in Petipa's choreographic language. Today I am 40 years older, but it still seems right to elaborate on this concept with the experience, proficiency and perhaps also courage I have since gained. Even though the original premiere happened 131 ago, the chronological contrast still allows a valid approach to this classic.
It is impossible to stage an "original version" of a ballet from the classical era. Even those versions based on Nikolai Sergejev's 1939 production for the Vic-Wells Ballet in London reconstructed from the Stepanov notation as well as those by Sergei Vikharev and Alexei Ratmansky (based on the same notation), are all different. Ballet repertoire is not normally taught from a score. The steps and movements are usually shown by a ballet master and passed on from dancer to dancer. This means, of course, there is a great margin for error or changes according to the technical ability of the performer. Therefore, it seems more logical to speak of a tradition; the tradition of the Royal Ballet in London, that of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg or the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Today, the reconstruction of "The Sleeping Beauty" should be the result of extensive research and the chosen version should be determined by individual taste and instinct. The crucial question is: How can one translate Petipa's style for an audience of today?
In his notes, Petipa describes Aurora as "coquette" and during the rose adagio, she at one point simply throws away the roses her suitors have presented to her. So, I presume that she was not a particularly well-behaved child but rather a girl spoiled by the parents who longed so much for her and for whom there was never a need to search for a deeper meaning in life. To my mind, the 100 years slumber is a symbol of her development into a young woman. When she awakes, she experiences fear, loneliness and apparent death for the first time in her life. Experience makes her receptive to love.
Already in 1978, the young prince in my ballet wore jeans. But, far too easily, one could forget that he was of our present time. In my new version, I have developed his character also choreographically. At first, out of boredom, the prince goes hunting with his aristocratic friends; the experience in the woods however, makes his rifle irrelevant and his macho behaviour yields to a sensitivity, an inner longing and vulnerability which prepares him for love.
Spanning several decades, my work on "The Sleeping Beauty" and its visionary Tchaikovsky score unveiled a story of two young human beings from diverse realities, who open themselves to the experience of "true love". My desire is to create a subtext of reality beneath the fairytale structure. Adding this new dimension, the traditional choreography should gain additional relevance, the dancers on the stage, but also the audience in the theatre becoming aware of the human motivation behind the movements.
Transcribed and translated by Jörn Rieckhoff
Music: Peter I. Tchaikovsky
Traditional Choreography after Marius Petipa
New Choreography, Staging and Lighting: John Neumeier
Set and Costumes: Jürgen Rose
Staging of the traditional Choreography: Peter Appel, Irina Jacobson, Kevin Haigen
3 hours 15 minutes | 1 intermission
Part I: 1 hour 25 minutes, Part II: 1 hour 15 minutes
Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, July 16, 1978
Aurora: Lynne Charles
Prince Désiré: François Klaus
The Dorn: Max Midinet
The Rose: Colleen Scott
Catalabutte: Kevin Haigen
Princess Florine: Marianne Kruuse
King Florestan XXIV: Victor Hughes
The Queen: Beatrice Cordua
2005 Yokohama, Fukuoka, Osaka, Tokyo
2021 NEW PRODUCTION – PREMIERE:
Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, December 19, 2021
Supported by the Foundation for the Support of the Hamburg State Opera
The program is available in our online shop
Venue: Main Stage, Dammtorstraße 28, 20354 Hamburg
Prices: 7,00 EUR to 119,00 EUR
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