Sleeping Beauty is a classic tale, made most popular in its Disney animated version but also acclaimed on stage. The ballet is by Petipa and is performed in many opera houses across the world. The performance that I saw held many points of meaning for me as well as interesting aspects of production. Two points stood out the most. In terms of meaning, I found the rescue aspect of the ballet most meaningful, and in terms of production I found the scenery most meaningful.
First, the meaningful point of the story, for me, was the aspect of rescue that carried the plot along. We initially see rescue portrayed in the problem of the wicked fairy Carabosse who does not receive an invitation to the christening of Princess Aurora. The fairy, then, rebels against the Princess and concocts the trouble that drives the entire story. At this point, however, the aspect of rescue is already latent. Carabosse needs rescue from her wickedness and evil schemes; the Princess needs rescue from such a troubled fairy and ultimately from her deep sleep that she cannot rouse herself out of. Rescue reflects the needs of the characters, whether they realize it or not.
Why was this aspect of the ballet meaningful for me? I found it meaningful not only because it was interesting or a featured part of the plot. I found it meaningful because of the need for rescue throughout our lives, and for most of human history. Humans have a problem, one that we often do not admit and often fail to grasp fully. Something is wrong with the human race, as evidenced in the continual reports in the news and the overriding concern with making things right in the world. But the nature of the problem is not my main interest or connection to Sleeping Beauty, rather the need for rescue and its many forms carries most importance for me. Some people turn to religion, others to drugs and fun times or wealth, and others turn towards people. The Prince in this ballet is the rescuer, something that many men and women aspire to in our contemporary culture.
Second, the production aspect that carried most meaning for me was the scenery. The scenery changed many times during the ballet, from an opening scene, and then to later castles and fantastic environments. All of the scenes carried a sense of another world, as if the located the audience not in real life but in a place and time unknown. The fantastic feelings of the environment complimented the colors of the scenery. The brilliant shades of blue were my most favorite, and the flashes of red as well as the night scenes were wonderful. These production elements of color and aura all fall under the aspect of scenery, one of the most powerful and unique aspects to stage plays. It may also be one of the most challenging. For a movie production crew can create a set in a controlled space with as much time as they need, without concern for anything that does not appear on the camera shot. However, on the stage, actors must dance and the scenes must change ever so often.
Sleeping Beauty is not only an impressive ballet but a meaningful one. Its theme of rescue, both latent and explicit, moved me and connected with parts of my life and the world’s livelihood. The production elements involved in scenery also carried meaning for me, showing both the impressive quality of Sleeping Beauty and its otherworldly and beautiful aspects. And the best part, was that the sleeping beauty was rescued.