Director’s Notebook: The Sleeping Beauty

Dear Friends,
Tonight the curtain rises on Ronald Hynd’s wonderful production of The Sleeping Beauty. After eight weeks of preparation, we are ready for performance. There are as many as five casts of some roles and many premieres. Try to catch as many as you can. Here are a few interesting facts I thought you’d like to know:
This is the largest production that PNB does as far as number of performers, size of orchestra and number of costume pieces. There are 900 individual costume pieces used in each performance and our wardrobe department manages to get them all on the right people.
The Queen’s Act III costume weighs 35 pounds.
Kaori Nakamura wears three or four pairs of pointe shoes for each performance of Aurora.
In the original 1980 production of The Sleeping Beauty, Italian dancer/teacher Enrico Cecchetti danced the roles of both Carabosse and the Blue Bird.
Emil de Cou, associate Conductor of the National Symphony orchestra in Washington, DC, will be a guest conductor for three performances of Beauty. Four guest conductors joined us during Nutcracker as part of our search for a new Music Director.
All Sleeping Beauty matinees begin at 1PM and are dress-up matinees for boys and girls, with plenty of activities planned for them before the performance and at intermissions.

Some people never grow old. You probably think I’m talking about that stunningly beautiful 116-year-old princess you are about to see, but I’m not. I’m talking about two individuals who arrived in our studios a few weeks ago like a welcome spring breeze. Ronald Hynd, choreographer of our Sleeping Beauty and his lovely wife Annette Page are forever young, despite several decades of birthdays. Watching the choreographer bring shape and life to his work is to see our profession at its best. Annette’s experiences in the roles of Princess Florine, who is enchanted by a bluebird, and Princess Aurora, make her a perfect coach for our dancers. With wicked wits and hysterical stories from long and illustrious careers, their return to PNB has been a welcome one.

As frequent visitors to this company will know, I love new work. I love to commission work when we can find the resources to pay for it. And at the same time, I am continually struck by the pleasure we all have in revisiting the great traditional works on which classical ballet was founded. How fresh they can look and how enthralling they can be for wide-eyed, first-time viewers and longtime ballet aficionados. We feel the challenge of Aurora’s prolonged balances and promenades on one pointed foot and the brilliant spectacle of the Bluebird’s batterie. We are rendered blissfully childlike in rooting for Prince Florimund and Little Red Riding Hood. We are equally passionate in our disdain for the Wolf and the villainous Carabosse. There’s nothing like a heartpumping story of the triumph of good over evil.

The challenges I have thrown at our dancers over the past five seasons are a tall order. The Sleeping Beauty is perhaps the greatest technical challenge of any ballet in our repertory. Work on The Sleeping Beauty began in November as the first Nutcracker snow began to fall. Precision of technique, stamina, portrayal of character, and demonstration of musicality and stage presence are only the beginning. You will want to catch as many casts as you can. Each is remarkable in its own way.

Savor our orchestra’s mastery of Tchaikovsky’s grand composition. Sixty talented musicians fill the hall with drama and delight. Take a trip down to the edge of the orchestra pit at intermission and learn more about this key component of our company. You can also enjoy PNB’s orchestra during a live broadcast on King FM on Friday, February 5 at 7:30 pm.

I’m guessing that after today’s performance of The Sleeping Beauty, you are going to want to come back and see us again. We have another classic coming up this spring that you might want to catch. PNB will perform George Balanchine’s delightful Coppélia for the first time with all-new sets and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. We’ve been working on this one for more than a year and I’ve been talking about it for five. With three new scenic designs and 125 new costumes, it’s quite an undertaking. It’s also the reason I fell in love with ballet. You may already be in love with ballet, but this one’s a winner you won’t want to miss. It’s going to be a great spring at PNB and we look forward to seeing you back at the ballet.

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