Prince Désiré's Hunt

Following the hunting horn Entr'acte, the first Scène of Act II is not found in the notation, and thus is based on the Kirov's 1952 production. The action, nevertheless, follows the libretto. The hunting party settles down for lunch, shoots arrows and plays Colin-Maillard (Blind-Man's-Buff), a charming piece of period flavor, which is staged according to the ground plans given in the notation.

The Dance of the Duchesses is the only dance performed by the party. Of the four dances Tchaikovsky composed, the sources are unclear as to which were actually performed in the 1890 premiere. The choreographic notation includes a dance for several couples. The Kirov's dance may correspond to this particular notation (which was not at my disposal), although it involves seven couples. A choreographic notation of another dance is dated 1938 in London. The Dance of the Baronesses, Dance of the Countesses and Dance of the Marquises are cut. The Farandole is danced by eight peasant couples, who are joined by most of the courtiers towards the end of the number.

The party is called to continue the hunt. This Scène resembles the 1952 Kirov production, but with different timing: the brief conversation between Désiré and his tutor, Galifron, occurs after the Lilac Fairy theme has begun. Lilac's gondola enters at the second statement of her theme, per the piano reductions. Her sailing companions include several small children, who remain in the boat throughout the subsequent vision scene (Pas d'action). Her costume closely resembles photos from early productions: low-heeled shoes, bulky and modest gown and a lilac-plumed helmet. She carries a tall, walking stick festooned with more lilacs. She mimes a conversation with Désiré and, after learning that he finds none of the court ladies pleasing, conjures up a vision of Aurora. A large, hollowed-out rock rolls on from stage left, revealing a picture of Aurora reclining and asleep. The Prince implores Lilac to bring the vision to him.

The Pas d'action adagio is notated twice, the first (the more detailed of the two) with 16 corps girls and the second with 24. Both the original cast list and the Kirov production include 16 corps. The dance is a true pas d'action, with Désiré trying to catch Aurora's shade throughout. At the culmination of the adagio, eight corps girls bring a shell onstage, out of which radiate garlands, practical for carrying the device. They place this shell/toe-hold midstage and Aurora balances on it in arabesque, after Désiré declares his love for her to the Lilac Fairy.

As Petipa did for the first production, the Kirov discards the music Tchaikovsky composed for Aurora's variation and replaces it with the Gold Fairy music from Act III. Although not a very musical decision, it is accurate historically and, of course, this is the music to which the choreography fits. The change of music required the conductor of the premiere, Riccardo Drigo (1846-1930), to fashion a modulation to the new key, and the Kirov includes this additional music in their performance.

The choreography for the coda resembles the Kirov's 1952 production. The vision having disappeared with the nymphs into the forest, Désiré now begs the Lilac Fairy to bring him to Aurora. The fairy and the prince step into the barque, which sails off stage right. The Kirov did not bring the fully-staged Panaroma to the Met, so at this point the curtain closed and the Panorama music was shortened.

The violin Entr'acte, cut from the 1890 production, is performed with the front curtain down. Although the Kirov orchestra plays Drigo's interpolated key change prior to Aurora's vision scene variation, here they do not play the brief cello solo which elides the Panorama with the Entr'acte. This connecting music was obviously cut along with the Entr'acte in 1890, but could now be restored.

The Sleeping Beauty's Castle

The following Symphonic Entr'acte appears to have been played complete in 1890, but is here shortened by a cut. Midway through, the curtain rises to reveal the extravagant bedchamber of the sleeping princess. Various characters from Act I stand or recline near the bed, including the King and Queen and Catalabutte. Lilac enters, followed by Désiré. He runs in confusion around the room, trying to wake the Queen and seeing the sleeping princess on her bed. He consults Lilac for further action and she encourages him to think on his own. The solution comes just in time and he rushes to the bed and kisses Aurora on the forehead (or the lips, as in some subsequent performances).

In the Finale, somewhat shortened by cuts, the princess awakens and the fireplace blazes. Aurora stirs her mother and father. All rise and Aurora mimes how she was kissed (be it on the forehead or lips) and awakened from the spell. The King and Queen bless the forthcoming marriage of the prince and princess.

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Copyright © Doug Fullington 1999. All rights reserved.