Why These Strange Characters in Sleeping Beauty? 

January, 2019

Have you ever wondered

why all these strange characters appear at Aurora's wedding in Act III of Sleeping Beauty? Apart from providing opportunities to enhance the productions, for dancers to shine, and for audiences to enjoy?

 

Researching Google, as one does with a question like this, tells us that the original ballet of Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by French-born Marius Petipa (1818-1910), was based on the French version,  La Belle au Bois Dormant by Charles Perrault (1628-1703), who also wrote Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and others. 

Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault?

 

If you are a bit confused now, like I was because you thought these fairy tales were the work of the Brothers Grimm: 'While the Brothers Grimm are widely credited with creating the fairy tale as we know it, Perrault actually wrote stories called Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, La Belle au Bois Dormant and Cendrillon a full 200 years before.' (Rhiannon Williams, The Telegraph, 16 January 2016)

 

The stories of The White Cat and Bluebird, on the other hand, were written by Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Comtesse d'Aulnoy, known as Madame d'Aulnoy (1651-1705).

 

As French culture was greatly admired in Russia at the time (19th century), the librettist Ivan Vsevolojsky (1835–1909) incorporated Perrault's and Madame d'Aulnoy's characters into the Sleeping Beauty ballet, taking quite a liberty in combining the former's Puss in Boots and the latter's White Cat into a pas de deux.  

 

blue bird pas de deux.jpg

Franziska in the Bluebird pas de deux with Noburo Mizukami, Sapporo, 1993

Brief Summary of the Story of Bluebird


A wicked queen wishes to marry her daughter to the young King Charmant, who is in love with Princess Florine, the wicked queen's step-daughter. 
As King Charmant refused the queen's request, he is being turned into a bluebird and Princess Florine locked into a tower where she is visited by Charmant, as a bird, at night. 'The Bluebird pas de deux presumably shows Charmant happily fluttering in the presence of Florine.' (The Telegraph, 2016).
In the end, Florine is released from her tower, Charmant transformed back into a human, and the queen's own daughter turned into a pig. 

The White Cat, Sleeping Beauty

Brief Summary of the Story of The White Cat


A young prince has to find three special things for his father, the King: the world's loveliest dog, a very fine cloth, and a bride. As the prince sets out, he enters a castle and is joined by a white cat at dinner who not only beguiles him but who also provides him with what his father has asked for.
To fulfill the third request, to bring a bride, the white cat asks the prince to chop off her head and tail! Thus, she turns into an enchanting princess. (Perrault's tales are far more macabre than Grimm's versions).

It must be that the appearance of The White Cat at Aurora's wedding takes place after the second request when she is still in the form of a cat and before she becomes a princess.

I was very lucky to have performed The White Cat at the German State Opera Berlin. I remember how surprised I was when the audience laughed out loud at one of my gestures. I never expected such a reaction although I have seen the piece many times. It was fantastic!

As much as this pas de deux is fun to dance, it is also very challenging and I am happy to work with you on it, in a modified version, as a solo or duet, at the Easter Ballet Workshop this year.
 

Franziska as The White Cat,

German State Opera, ca. 1994

Rescources: Who's That Bluebird? And Who's That White Cat? | The Telegraph