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Choreography Martin Schläpfer, Marius Petipa

Cast 01.11.2022

Conductor Patrick Lange
Music Piotr I. Tschaikowski Giacinto Scelsi
Choreography Martin Schläpfer Marius Petipa
Stage Design Florian Etti
Costume Design Catherine Voeffray
Licht & Video Thomas Diek
Dramaturge Anne do Paço
Die Königin Olga Esina
Der König Masayu Kimoto
Prinzessin Aurora Hyo-Jung Kang
Prinz Désiré Brendan Saye
Catalabutte Jackson Carroll
La Fée des Lilas Ioanna Avraam
Carabosse Claudine Schoch
Der Blaue Vogel Arne Vandervelde
Prinzessin Florine Kiyoka Hashimoto
Faun Daniel Vizcayo
Die Waldfrau Yuko Kato


The work that received its world premiere on 15 January 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg was one of the greatest events in the history of ballet. Two masters of their art – the composer Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky and the choreographer Marius Petipa – advised by the universally educated Artistic Director Ivan Vsevoloshsky, who not only wrote the libretto but also designed the costumes, had collaborated extremely closely to create a three-hour feast of dance which is unrivalled in the complexity of its musical form, the dramaturgy of its choreographic structure, its metaphorical intensity and the rich symbolism of its imagery.

Even more than in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky had worked the score of Sleeping Beauty into a symphonic form. The characters taken from Charles Perrault’s fairy tale La Belle au bois dormant, which was first published in 1697 in the anthology Les Contes de ma mère l’Oye, are subtly differentiated through their motifs, with the statement of the music and the details of the plot complementing each other perfectly. One of the score’s greatest admirers, Igor Stravinsky, wrote: »The pleasure it gave me lasted for days on end and in this work, I was delighted to find the same freshness, invention, strength and spirit over and over again. Every entrance, indeed every action that takes place on stage is always presented individually depending on the character of the person concerned and every number has its own personality.«

While Sleeping Beauty can be seen as the most perfect creation in the entire Russian ballet repertoire, at the same time it presents many complex questions and remains open to new interpretations, not least because of the fairy tale on which it is based: a story about growing up, a girl developing into a woman, the intrusion of a fairy world in the everyday life of a royal court, the battle between light and darkness, of time against evil. At the end, the »other« world that intervenes in the life of Princess Aurora and her parents is secularized in a theatrical celebration – in Petipa’s version.

Martin Schläpfer was captivated by this opulent dance fairy tale when he was a student at the Royal Ballet School in London: »Sleeping Beauty was the classical ballet I saw most often in London: many times, with casts that included Jennifer Penney and David Wall, Lynn Seymour, Rudolf Nureyev and many others«, he recalls. »Later, when I was a dancer myself, the Blue Bird was one of my most beautiful and fascinating roles. The piece has never let go of me.« For a long time he has been occupied by the thought of choreographing a Sleeping Beauty. »I think the music is magnificent«, he admits, »and then I went and did Swan Lake first. I love all three Tchaikovsky ballets – Nutcracker too – as different as they are. What fascinates me about Sleeping Beauty is the way the material, the music and its reception all interact together: on the one hand, Tchaikovsky’s score and of course the fairy tale as it is written in the books of Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, but on the other hand also what is often etched into the minds of the audience as as-it-were the ›original ballet‹. I want to try to find a path between these two that doesn’t break with everything that is there but is something other than just another version ›after Marius Petipa‹.«

As in his Swan Lake, Martin Schläpfer would like to think of Sleeping Beauty as a drama, »as a genuine plot that is always providing the characters with a text«, even if large sections of the score are conceived as pure dances. He has a lot of questions for the characters described in the ballet’s libretto: »Despite all its brilliance, what is the deeper relationship of Aurora to her parents, the King and Queen, who for me are quite clearly lead roles: they don’t simply have a representative function, they are also going to have a lot to dance? Might the fairies be more elf-like, and come from a different world than the one the humans come from? Is Carabosse truly evil or is she a woman who is misunderstood, who has deep feelings, many levels, who is wise, a character who might also contain beauty and warmth? And a central question: What does the immense time gap of 100 years between Act One and Act Two mean – for the story, the characters, and for the dancing?«

With his Swan Lake in 2018, Martin Schläpfer aimed »for the heart of the fairy tale« and created »a great evening of ballet«, as the Berlin Tagesspiegel wrote about the world premiere. He now follows this up with his version of Sleeping Beauty together with the Vienna State Ballet, designed by Florian Etti and with costumes by Catherine Voeffray.