Performance information

Performance information

Marius Petipa
Pjotr Iljitsj Tsjaikovski – The Sleeping Beauty (1890)
Production, direction and additional choreography
Sir Peter Wright
Set and costume design
Philip Prowse
Lighting design
Jan Hofstra
Rehearsal supervisor
Denis Bonner
Ballet masters
Rachel Beaujean
Charlotte Chapellier
Guillaume Graffin
Judy Maelor Thomas
Sandrine Leroy
Larissa Lezhnina
Caroline Sayo Iura
Jozef Varga

With cooperation of
Students and pupils of the Dutch National Ballet Academy

Rehearsal teacher pupils of the Dutch National Ballet Academy
Dario Elia

Musical accompaniment
Dutch Ballet Orchestra
conducted by Ermanno Florio (October-November)
and Koen Kessels (December-January)

Sets, props, wigs and makeup, lighting and sound
Technical department of Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Production manager
Anu Viheriäranta
Stage managers
Kees Prince
Wolfgang Tietze
Production supervisor
Mark van Trigt
First carpenter
Edwin Rijs
Lighting managers
Michel van Reijn
Angela Leuthold
Lighting supervisor
Wijnand van der Horst
Follow spotters
Carola Robert
Marleen van Veen
Panos Mitsopoulos
Titus Franssen
Lee Hayes
Follow spotters coordinator
Ariane Kamminga
Sound engineer
Florian Jankowski (October-November)
Ramón Schoones (December-January)
Niek Gersen
Costume production
Costume department Dutch National Ballet
in collaboration with Das Gewand, Ina Kromphardt,
Herma Stal, Merel Kaspers, Hermien Hollander, Esther Datema
Assistant costume production
Eddie Grundy
First dresser
Andrei Brejs
First make up artist
Trea van Drunen
Orchestra inspector
David Eijlander

Total duration
Three hours and ten minutes, including two intervals

Cast sheet

The cast sheet for The Sleeping Beauty will be posted on this page one day before the performance and will be available until one day after the performance.


Follow the link below to read the synopsis of The Sleeping Beauty.

Synopsis: The Sleeping Beauty

Prologue: The christening party

King Florestan and his Queen have invited all the fairies to be present as godmothers at the christening of their daughter, Princess Aurora. The fairy Carabosse has not been invited because no one has seen her for fifty years. Nevertheless, she arrives, mortally insulted, just as the other fairies are presenting their gifts. Carabosse’s christening gift to Aurora is a curse: one day she will prick her finger on the needle of a spinning wheel and die. Fortunately, the Lilac Fairy has not yet made her wish. She manages to avert disaster by declaring that Aurora shall not die, but only fall into a deep sleep for a hundred years, from which she will be awakened by the kiss of a Prince


Act one: The spell

Princess Aurora is celebrating her sixteenth birthday. Four princes are courting her. In the midst of the bustling party, Aurora suddenly notices an old woman sitting at a spinning wheel, something which the King has strictly forbidden in his kingdom to prevent Carabosse’s curse coming true. Aurora is so fascinated that the old woman passes her the spindle and she dances with it in her arms. Suddenly she pricks her finger and falls to the ground. The King and Queen are horrified and the old woman is taken away to prison. Carabosse appears triumphant, rejoicing that her curse has been fulfilled. But just as she is about to disappear, the Lilac Fairy arrives to fulfil her promise. She puts the entire court to sleep with a magic spell and, at a given sign, the palace is enshrouded by the forest.


Act two: The vision

A hundred years later, Prince Florimund is holding a hunting party in the same forest. He instructs his courtiers to carry on the hunt while he remains behind alone, dreaming of an idealised image of romantic love. Suddenly the Lilac Fairy appears. She conjures up a vision of the Sleeping Beauty for him and bids this vision to dance with the Prince. As the vision disappears, the Prince implores the Lilac Fairy to help him to find the Sleeping Beauty. The Lilac Fairy leads him through the forest to the overgrown palace where Aurora is still slumbering. He finds Aurora and awakens her with a kiss.


Act three: The wedding feast

Fairy-tale characters arrive at the wedding feast of Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora. They pay their respects to the bride and groom, and the whole assembly joins together in a great feast of dance. At the grand finale, the Lilac Fairy appears once more to bless the marriage.

History of The Sleeping Beauty

The premiere of Sir Peter Wright’s Sleeping Beauty, performed by Dutch National Ballet in 1981, was an important event in the Netherlands. Never before had a Dutch company presented a full-length ballet of such a high standard. ‘A real triumph’ and ‘a milestone in Dutch dance history’, wrote the press. Over forty years later, Wright’s Beauty is just as successful. At the last series of performances, in 2017, the newspaper NRC Handelsblad called the ballet one of the highlights of the theatre season.

History of The Sleeping Beauty

Tchaikovsky was not the most obvious candidate for Vsevolozhsky to approach. Although he was a celebrated composer with regard to symphonies, Tchaikovsky had little understanding of ballet music, according to the norms of the day. His first ballet composition, Swan Lake, turned out to be a flop in 1877. Fortunately, Vsevolozhsky recognised the composer’s special qualities, and it was only after Tchaikovsky accepted the commission that Vsevolozhsky asked Marius Petipa to create the choreography. That choice was more or less self-evident, as the Frenchman had already been working at the Imperial Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre since 1847 – first as a soloist and later as a teacher and choreographer – and was held in high esteem.

Together with Petipa and Tchaikovsky, Vsevolozhsky – who wrote the libretto and designed the sets and costumes – made The Sleeping Beauty a tribute to Tsar Alexander III. By referring to the court of Louis XIV, the makers put the tsar’s court on a par with the splendour with which the French Sun King surrounded himself. Nevertheless, the remarks of Alexander III after watching the dress rehearsal remained restricted to ‘very nice’. The critics found the ballet ‘far too serious’, writing that the work had ‘no plot’ and was ‘not a ballet, but a fairy tale; one big dance divertissement’. They thought Tchaikovsky’s music was ‘too symphonic and heavy’. The audience, however, were very enthusiastic about The Sleeping Beauty.



Among that audience was the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Although The Sleeping Beauty had already been danced in 1896 in Milan, it was Diaghilev who brought the production to the attention of the wider Western audience in 1921. For his production,he called on Nikolai Sergeyev, the former director-general of the Mariinsky Theatre, who had fled to the West following the October Revolution, taking with him books containing the notation of the original choreography of The Sleeping BeautyThe Nutcracker and the Petipa/Ivanov version of Swan Lake. So Diaghilev’s company Les Ballets Russes was able to present a production that was more or less identical to the original version. However, we cannot know the extent to which Sergeyev had adapted the original. And neither is there total certainty about the originality of the music used. There was no complete score of Tchaikovsky’s composition to hand in 1921. The composition was rewritten on the basis of reduced piano scores by Igor Stravinsky – a great admirer of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty.

The huge cost of The Sleeping Princess, as Diaghilev christened his production, nearly brought the company to its knees. But it was due to Diaghilev’s efforts that interest in the ballet was aroused in the West. From then on, various companies began to stage their own versions of the story. The two most legendary productions are the 1939 version by Nikolai Sergeyev for the Vic-Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet) and the one created by Bronislava Nijinska (former dancer with Les Ballets Russes) and Sir Robert Helpmann in 1960 for the company of the French Marquis de Cuevas (the latter production did lead to the bankruptcy of that company).



There are some people today who dismiss The Sleeping Beauty as a ballet cliché. Yet the companies, choreographers and dancers who do recognise the value of Petipa’s original are still in the majority by far. For them, The Sleeping Beauty is the unsurpassed highlight of the French-Russian dance style. The rich dance vocabulary, the long, graceful lines that accentuate the elegance of the performers, the musicality of the choreography and the belief in purity and perfection that is radiated by the production as a whole make the ballet the most flawless and successful example of Petipa’s art. The narrative element is of secondary importance. The goals aimed for by Petipa were the display of elegant, delightful dancing and sparkling virtuosity, rather than the expression of emotions. His dance gems, mostly set in taut, straight patterns, are therefore reminiscent of hard, glittering diamonds. Such cool, clear choreography leaves little room for covering things up, which makes The Sleeping Beauty a relentless ballet to perform. The almost supernatural demands made on the dancers mean it is still regarded as the touchstone of the classical ballet repertoire today.



Dutch National Ballet danced its first complete Sleeping Beauty in 1968, in a version by the Polish choreographer Conrad Drzewiecki. Four years later, the ballet was staged by Ronald Casenave, who based it on the production by Le Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas. Neither version stayed in the repertoire for long, unlike the third version presented by Dutch National Ballet in 1981, by the Englishman Sir Peter Wright.

Wright’s Sleeping Beauty is Petipa at his best. The production has all the radiance, lustre and allure that the imperial ballet master had in mind. Although Wright has remained faithful to tradition, he believes it is impossible to dance The Sleeping Beauty as it was danced a hundred years ago. “Today’s audiences would be bored to tears. So paradoxically you have to adapt the ballet if you want to do justice to tradition.”

Philip Prowse – the designer of the breathtaking sets and costumes – situated the story at the French court of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The fashions of the time are reflected in the costumes and their rich details, and the scenery exudes a magnificence that appears to come straight from the Mariinsky Theatre. Wright and Prowse breathed new life into The Sleeping Beauty and preserved the glittering legacy of Marius Petipa for modern audiences today.

Author: Astrid van Leeuwen
With thanks to Yvonne Beumkes and Bert Westra

Sir Peter Wright about ‘his’ Sleeping Beauty

The premiere of Sir Peter Wright’s Sleeping Beauty, performed by Dutch National Ballet in 1981, was an important event in the Netherlands. Never before had a Dutch company presented a full-length ballet of such a high standard. ‘A real triumph’ and ‘a milestone in Dutch dance history’, wrote the press. Over forty years later, Wright’s Beauty is just as successful. At the last series of performances, in 2017, the newspaper NRC Handelsblad called the ballet one of the highlights of the theatre season.

Sir Peter Wright about ‘his’ Sleeping Beauty

The 95-year-old Sir Peter Wright himself is surprised by how long it is since the premiere of ‘his’ Sleeping Beauty – based on Marius Petipa’s original from 1890 – took place in the Stadsschouwburg, in Amsterdam. “It was one of the most exciting periods I’ve ever experienced. I well remember the thrill and the success.”

All these years later, it still makes him chuckle. “It was the first time Dutch National Ballet had presented such a big production, so Philip Prowse (the fantastic designer I was working with) and I thought we’d better pull out all the stops!”

‘A ballet that should be in your blood’


The Englishman thinks it’s wonderful that Dutch National Ballet has remained faithful to his version over all those years. “In the past, I was sometimes concerned. Dutch National Ballet dances a lot of modern works, so I wondered whether the company would be able to switch quickly from performing a contemporary programme to the pure classical style demanded by The Sleeping Beauty. But I needn’t have worried. Dutch National Ballet has an excellent understanding of my production, also because most of the ballet masters have danced it themselves at some point – or even at the premiere in 1981. The Sleeping Beauty is the ‘bible of classical ballet’, so it’s important that the production is in your blood, as it were.”



“Furthermore, Dutch National Ballet values and understands my style”, says Wright. “For The Sleeping Beauty, I drew heavily on the Cecchetti method (named after the nineteenth-century Italian ballet master Enrico Cecchetti and known for its simplicity of line and purity of style – ed.). That’s because I think it’s much closer to the original Petipa style than the flamboyant, often exaggerated Russian style. The Russians may claim that they understand Petipa like no one else, but actually it’s not true. The only person who had a notation of the original production was Nikolai Sergeyev, who staged the ballet for the Vic-Wells Ballet in London (now The Royal Ballet – ed.) just before the war. And that’s the version I based my production on.”



However, it was never Wright’s intention to remain strictly faithful to what we know of the original version. “No way”, he reacts appalled. “The audience would be bored to tears! When The Sleeping Beauty was first performed in St Petersburg, in 1890, it was a true ‘ballet de spectacle’. The story didn’t really matter; it was just a vehicle for all those wonderful fairy variations and divertissements. But audiences today want more. They want drama, a story and emotion. What I’ve done is try to unite these two ‘worlds’. And actually, the ballet tells only half the story, as the original fairy tale goes much further. The second part is full of horror. The prince’s mother wants to eat Aurora and her children, and when the prince prevents it just in time, he pushes his mother into a vat full of snakes. I’ve sometimes toyed with the idea of making the complete story into a ballet, but unfortunately I’m no longer up to it.”

Sir Peter Wright, Karin Schnabel, Lindsay Fischer - The Sleeping Beauty (rehearsal, 1981) | Photo: Jorge Fatauros
Sir Peter Wright, Karin Schnabel, Lindsay Fischer - The Sleeping Beauty (rehearsal, 1981) | Photo: Jorge Fatauros


The way it is performed has changed a lot too since the nineteenth century, says Wright. “If you look at the photos from that time, you realise it must have looked very different indeed. I can’t imagine that those plump ballerinas could have got anywhere near the achievements of dancers today.”

Even over the past 41 years, he says, the standard has improved enormously. “All over the world, and especially at Dutch National Ballet. When I came to Amsterdam in 1981, most of the dancers couldn’t even dance a mazurka, but now they don’t think twice about it. And although the group still has many different nationalities, it’s now much easier to get everyone on the same wavelength, as the dancers are better trained.”



The role of the ‘sleeping beauty’ Aurora is demanding – probably the most demanding one in classical ballet. Wright says, “It’s a combination of everything. The ballerina who portrays her must be exceptionally musical and have a rock-solid technique. But I think the most important thing is the interpretation of the role. In each of the three acts, you have to portray another person.

In Act 1, it revolves around innocence, youth and the joy of living, in Act 2 you’re a vision, and in Act 3 you’ve grown into a woman of class, grace and grandeur.” Not every dancer is able to show those different sides of herself; some focus too strongly on the technical stunts of the role.”

Wright’s fondest memories are still of the performances by the British ballerina Margot Fonteyn. “The natural way she interpreted the different facets of her role was simply beautiful. But I must say that Alexandra Radius (who danced the premiere with Dutch National Ballet in 1981 – ed.) came very close. I always loved her. She was so classical; so pure.” Wright searches his memory: “There were certainly others at Dutch National Ballet who gave wonderful performances of the role. But their names escape me for the moment.”



Besides Aurora, there is also a main role for mime in Wright’s Sleeping Beauty. “Originally, I didn’t like mime in ballet at all. But after watching Ronald Casenave (who staged a previous version of The Sleeping Beauty for Dutch National Ballet in 1972 – ed.) at work with the wicked fairy Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and the mother of Giselle (in the ballet of the same name – ed.), I was bowled over. It was so wonderful, and so powerful. Then I understood that Sir Frederick Ashton was right: you need contrast in a ballet production. It can’t just be dancing, dancing and yet more dancing.”

Wright knows from experience that today’s generation of dancers sometimes struggles initially with the amount of mime. “In the beginning, most of them think all those gestures are silly. That’s until they realise what a huge impact that one precise gesture can have. Much of the role of Carabosse, for example, is made up of mime. If you do it well, the whole audience trembles and you give everyone goose pimples. If you don’t do it well, then it soon becomes really dreary.”

Author: Astrid van Leeuwen

Talking to four character dancers from The Sleeping Beauty

They hardly dance at all, but they’re important characters who are on stage for a large part of the performance. Character dancers are an essential element in nearly all full-length classical ballets. Dutch National Ballet often invites former dancers with the company to perform these roles. This time, they are Nicolas Rapaic, Amanda Beck, Jane Lord and Raimondo Fornoni, among others.

Talking to four character dancers from The Sleeping Beauty

These four ‘character dancers’ can now boast a long list of roles in ballet classics. This season, they return to the stage of Dutch National Ballet, in The Sleeping Beauty, in the roles of the king, the queen and the master of ceremonies Catalabutte, respectively



The first time that former soloist Nicolas Rapaic performed the role of the king in The Sleeping Beauty was still during his professional career with Dutch National Ballet. Nicolas says, “At the time, it wasn’t exactly my dream role. When you’re at the peak of your career in your twenties or thirties, you’d rather be performing a big dancing role. But nowadays, I think it’s a great role, if only for the beautiful costumes you get to wear.” So Nicolas is happy to be transformed into a king once again for this performance series of The Sleeping Beauty. “It’s a pleasure to be back on stage, back in the world you know so well. You are once again part of the whole process – from the beginning until the end – and of the team bringing the ballet to life. And everything’s arranged for you. You’re dressed and made up, and coached from start to finish by wonderful ballet masters. All you have to do then as a character dancer is go on stage, seize the moment and enjoy it.”

‘For this role, you can’t be grumpy or old enough!’



Amanda Beck (former soloist) and Jane Lord (former principal), who are sharing the role of queen this season, together with Nadine Drouin, also see the energy one gets from a live performance as an important reason for continuing to do character roles. Amanda says, “It’s an honour to keep on experiencing the thing that made you want to become a dancer in the first place. I’m very happy I still get invited to perform.” Both women danced in the first production of Sir Peter Wright’s Sleeping Beauty in 1981, and have since worked with the choreographer on several occasions. Jane says, “That means I’ve learned ‘from the source’ how best to perform a character role. However, you do need to keep on improving yourself, and fortunately, we are well supported in this by ballet master Sandrine Leroy. Because performing character roles isn’t as easy as it looks. Every movement you make has to be clear to the audience and you have to remain in character throughout the performance, even if you’re just watching from your throne for almost an entire act.” So mime and expression are extremely important in interpreting a character role, explains Jane. “I’ve always liked mime and roles with lots of emotion. Conveying emotions is one of my strengths, which is one of the reasons I enjoy dancing character roles so much.”

These emotions reach a climax in the scene Sir Peter Wright himself once described as ‘the queen’s lament’, which follows the moment when Aurora pricks her finger and falls unconscious. For both Jane and Amanda, this is one of their favourite moments in performing the queen. Amanda says, “It’s a very dramatic scene, so it’s fantastic to do. Another of my favourite moments comes in the prologue, when the queen walks downstage to present the princess, with her baby in her arms. I always imagine the baby is one of my own children or my grandson. Then it feels really magical.”



The third character role in The Sleeping Beauty is Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies at the court, who is held responsible for failing to invite the wicked fairy Carabosse to the christening party. This season, one of the artists interpreting the role of Catalabutte is a true character dance veteran, Raimondo Fornoni, who made his debut as a character dancer in 1981, as the king in Sir Peter Wright’s Sleeping Beauty. Nowadays, he enjoys watching a new generation of character dancers perform this role. Raimondo says, “The king should be a big man and not too old. After all, he has a young daughter. So it’s good that dancers like Nicolas Rapaic and Tycho Hupperets are now taking over the role. Catalabutte, on the other hand, is a rather nasty old man. So for that role, you can’t be grumpy or old enough!”

Besides the king and Catalabutte in The Sleeping Beauty, Raimondo has danced nearly all the male character roles in the classical repertoire over the past forty years. So he knows better than most that these roles – although they don’t usually involve any dance steps – can’t be performed by just anyone. Raimondo says, “You have to know the ballet world inside and out, or else it won’t work. Only if you’ve been a dancer yourself can you respond to the unspoken rules and laws that apply to this world.” However, that doesn’t mean that every ballet dancer is automatically suited to character roles. “You have to give the right dramatic interpretation of a role, which is something you can’t learn overnight. Apart from being a naturally good performer, it’s really important to gain lots of experience. So this year, I’m planning to give my best interpretation of Catalabutte to date!”

This production series of The Sleeping Beauty also features Tycho Hupperets, Nadine Drouin and Janusz Madej in the roles of the king, the queen and Catalabutte, respectively.

Author: Rosalie Overing

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