Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pick of the Week - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s "The Sleeping Beauty"

Artist: Julia Erickson  Photo by: Rich Sofranko 
Since the turn of the millennium, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has produced choreographer Marius Petipa’s "The Sleeping Beauty" in 2000, 2005 and 2009. Obviously a popular ballet, "The Sleeping Beauty" will once again grace the stage of Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center this weekend as PBT’s  45th anniversary season opener.
With music by Tchaikovsky played live by the PBT Orchestra, the ballet premiered in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and has since gone on to become one of the classical repertoire’s best known works.
Showcasing more than 150 performers, including students of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, PBT’s "The Sleeping Beauty" tells Charles Perrault’s classic tale through illustrative scenery and tour de force dancing.
"The Sleeping Beauty" features staging and direction by artistic director Terrence S. Orr with choreography after Marius Petipa. Considered "the father of classical ballet," Marius Petipa choreographed more than 60 full-length ballets, including some of the great 19th century classics, Swan Lake, La Bayadère, Don Quixote and The Nutcracker.
Distinguished by its purity and precision, the choreography of "The Sleeping Beauty" is widely regarded as the gold standard for classical ballet technique. Among its highlights, the famous "Rose Adagio," performed by Aurora and her four suitors, showcases the strength and control of the ballerina through a series of impressive balances and promenades, and the Act III wedding scene captures the elation of the lovers in a grand pas de deux often performed alone as a showpiece.
In addition to the leading roles of Princess Aurora and Prince Desire, "The Sleeping Beauty" displays the depth of the cast through the solos of the six good fairies, the soaring male choreography of the Bluebird Pas de Deux and the virtuosity of the Act III variations in the wedding scene. Other notable characters include the infamous fairy, Carabosse (known as Maleficent in the Disney version), and Act III cameos by Puss ‘n Boots and other characters from Perrault fairy tales.
The story line  begins with the baptism of Princess Aurora in which invited guests bring the young babe gifts. One uninvited arrival, Carabosse, is insulted she hasn’t been welcomed as one of the guests and, in retribution, curses the baby with a spell that will have her prick her finger on her 16th birthday and promptly die.
Fortunately one of the last of the invited guests who haven’t yet presented their gift is the Lilac Fairy. She intervenes to soften the wicked fairy’s malfeasance, but unable to completely overturn the curse, she substitutes a long sleep for the immediate demise of the princess. It’s a 100 year sleep that will be broken only with the kiss of a handsome prince.
The ballet ends happily with the marriage of the savior Prince and Princess Aurora in which the entire kingdom joins the King, the Queen and the Lilac Fairy in a joyous celebration of dance.
The ballet features one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest and most recognizable scores, including the iconic "Garland Waltz" used as the tune for Disney’s "Once Upon a Dream." At the time of the ballet’s creation, Tchaikovsky and Petipa collaborated closely to devise the tempo, themes and timing of the score. In a note to a benefactor, Tchaikovsky wrote, "The subject is so poetic, so inspirational to composition, that I am captivated by it."
The PBT Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s famous score under the direction of guest conductor Martin West, who serves as music director and principal conductor for San Francisco Ballet. West made his conducting debut at English National Ballet in 1997, and, in addition to his post with SFB, has went on to guest with some of the top ballet companies in North America, including New York City Ballet, Houston Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada.
Originally created for the Royal Ballet of London, "The Sleeping Beauty" features scenic and costume designs by David Walker, who evokes a 17th century aesthetic with the regal columns and gold finery of the palace that frames the story. Costume styles include the intricate classical tutus of the fairies, elaborate robes of the courtesans and the jeweled snakes and spiders of Carabosse’s costume.
Lush music, exquisite dancing, gorgeous costumes and sets all combine to make "The Sleeping Beauty" a must-see production and underscore its great popular appeal to people of all ages.
"The Sleeping Beauty" is at the Benedum Center in Downtown Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. on October 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on October 25 and 26. Phone 412-456-6666.

Artists: Gabrielle Thurlow & Nurlan Abougaliev 
Photo by: Duane Rieder

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