The Sleeping Beauty has been part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s story since the company’s foundation year. Yet, it’s a ballet that is not performed regularly. Widely regarded as the quintessential ballet, The Sleeping Beauty can remain unseen for years, even decades.
With a large cast, challenging choreography and grand audience expectations of elaborate costumes (remember, it traverses 100 years – fashions change!), and beautiful scenery, it’s is a major undertaking for any ballet company.
For this reason, new productions of The Sleeping Beauty are often programmed to mark important moments in the life of a company.
For example, New Zealand Ballet’s founder, Poul Gnatt, staged the celebrated ‘Bluebird’ pas de deux from Act III of The Sleeping Beauty in the company’s second-ever season, at His Majesty’s Theatre in Auckland in August 1953.
In 1962, the ballet staged the grand pas de trois from Act III as part of the company’s opening season and subsequent spring tour.
It was not until 1965 that the New Zealand Ballet staged a full production of The Sleeping Beauty, then 1972 saw a rarity: The Sleeping Beauty, specially created and staged for what was then known as Television New Zealand – the first full-length ballet ever shown on New Zealand television.
In 1978, the New Zealand Ballet celebrated its 25th birthday with an outstandingly successful new production of Sleeping Beauty.
So, it is with true joy, then, that the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) will open its magical new production, The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Sleeping Beauty in their first post-lockdown season, from 29 October.
This stunning new production has been created by a powerhouse of creativity, led by RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker. It includes New Zealand costume designer Donna Jefferis, American scenic designer Howard C. Jones, whose work New Zealand audiences may remember from the RNZB’s much-loved classic production of Giselle (2012), Austrian Dramaturg Michael Auer, whose most recent production with the company was The Nutcracker in 2018, and American Lighting Designer Randall (Rico) Chiarelli (Black Swan, White Swan, 2019).
Barker says, “We considered our production of this beautiful, enchanting story from all angles – from the original ballet, to the Disney story, and even as a Netflix-style compelling drama with storytelling and characters at its heart. The result is a bold new production with all the brilliance, grandeur and beauty of the beloved classical ballet.”
The grandest of fairy tales, the RNZB’s production of The Sleeping Beauty, while luxuriating in Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous orchestral score, spills over with fairies, woodland sprites, grand princes and, at its heart, an enchanting princess. This special Christmas production will unfurl like a fragrant summer rose with all the radiance and joy that any ballet lover, young or old, could wish for. In a time when love and kindness are more important than ever, sharing the joy of a timeless ballet with the young and young at heart this Christmas seems like one of the very best ways to bring a sparkle of joy to the end of a challenging year.