The Australian Ballet

The Sleeping Beauty - The Story

The Sleeping Beauty

TAB The Sleeping Beauty Mc Allister Melbourne Photo Jeff Busby 2015 9 1



The Palace

In the grand palace, the King and Queen are preparing for the christening of their long-awaited only child, Aurora. The King tells his Master of Ceremonies, Catalabutte, to invite the fairies of the realm to be Godmothers to the baby princess. However, Catalabutte is loath to invite Carabosse, the ancient Fairy of Wisdom, who has not been heard from in many years. He tears up her invitation.

The fairies arrive at the christening, led by the Lilac Fairy. The King and Queen greet them with gifts suited to the qualities they will bestow on their goddaughter: grace, joy, a musical voice, generosity, a serene temperament and beauty. The fairies give their gifts to the Princess, but just before the Lilac Fairy can bless Aurora with hers, Carabosse arrives in a rage at being overlooked.

She bestows a curse on Aurora: on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. The whole court is horrified. Just then the Lilac Fairy steps forward. While she cannot undo Carabosse’s curse, she weaves a counter spell: the Princess will not die, but will fall into a deep sleep. When a Prince who truly loves her wakes her with a kiss, the spell will be broken. Furious, Carabosse disappears. The King thanks the Lilac Fairy and declares that from now on, all spindles and sharp objects will be banished from the kingdom.

Act I

Scene 1: The Palace Gates

Three peasant women at the palace gates meet a mysterious stranger (Carabosse in disguise). She tempts them to try some knitting needles and a spindle, and urges them to come into the palace for the celebrations of Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday. Catalabutte comes past and Carabosse betrays the poor peasant women to him. He gathers up all the spindles and knitting needles, but Carabosse hides one in her cape. The King and Queen arrive, and when they hear what has happened the King sentences the women to death and invites the disguised Carabosse to the party.

Scene 2: The Palace Gardens

The courtiers are dancing with garlands to celebrate Aurora’s birthday. The King and Queen are anxious for their daughter to choose a husband, and introduce four foreign princes to her. She beguiles each one in turn as they present her with roses brought from their kingdoms.

When the festivities are at their height, Carabosse steps forward and presents Aurora with the spindle she has smuggled into the party. Aurora, who has never seen such a thing, is captivated and dances with it until she pricks her finger and collapses. Carabosse reveals herself, laughs triumphantly, and disappears. The Lilac Fairy appears and reminds the King and Queen that all is not lost – Aurora is not dead but sleeping. She puts a spell over the kingdom and all the guests fall asleep.

Act II

The Palace Grounds

A hundred years later, the gardens and grounds of the palace have grown into a forest. A hunting party comes upon the woodland place, led by Prince Désiré and his friends. The Prince is melancholy, beset by an unnamed yearning, and is more interested in reading his book of fairytales than sporting with his friends. The Lilac Fairy, who is Désiré's godmother as well as Aurora’s, appears and shows him the image of the sleeping princess. He is overwhelmed, and the Lilac Fairy calls on her woodland nymphs to bring forth the spirit of Aurora to dance for him. The Prince falls in love with this beauty, and resolves to find her. Carabosse tries to tempt him from his quest, but the Lilac Fairy gives him the key that will unlock the glass casket where Aurora sleeps. After a final struggle with Carabosse, he opens the casket and kisses Aurora, waking her and breaking the spell. The whole court awakes, Désiré and Aurora fall in love, and she chooses to marry him; she offers him a rose, which he joyfully accepts.


The Palace

To celebrate Aurora’s wedding, the King and Queen give a magnificent masked ball in the style of Louis XIV, the Sun King of France. Désiré's friends arrive dressed as characters from his beloved fairytale book. Aurora’s fairy godmothers bring lavish wedding gifts: gold, silver, sapphire and diamond. Amid much dancing and merriment, Désiré and Aurora are married, and blessed by the Lilac Fairy. After their wedding, they are crowned: they will succeed to the throne and will rule over the kingdom in peace and happiness.

Cast of characters

  • Princess Aurora
  • Prince Désiré
  • The Lilac Fairy
  • Carabosse
  • The Fairy of Joy
  • The Fairy of Grace
  • The Fairy of Generosity
  • The Fairy of Musicality
  • The Fairy of Temperament
  • The King
  • The Queen
  • Catalabutte
  • English Prince
  • Spanish Prince
  • Hungarian Prince
  • Swedish Prince
  • Leader of the Hunt
  • The Duke
  • The Duchess
  • Princess Florine
  • The Bluebird
  • Cinderella
  • Prince Charming
  • The White Cat
  • Puss in Boots
  • Red Riding Hood
  • The Wolf
  • Pages, Nurse, Courtiers, Guards, Rats, Knitting Women, Aurora's Girlfriends, Nymphs, Huntsmen, Marchionesses, Servants

Production credits

Choreography Marius Petipa

Production and additional choreography David McAllister

Music Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Set and costume design Gabriela Tylesova

Design associate Kat Chan

Dramaturge Lucas Jervies

Lighting design Jon Buswell

The Sleeping Beauty

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