Ben Stevenson's The Sleeping Beauty
In celebration of his 80th birthday, Houston Ballet revived Artistic Director Emeritus Ben Stevenson’s spectacular staging of The Sleeping Beauty for the 2015/16 Season. The Sleeping Beauty launched Stevenson’s career as a choreographer in London in 1967. The ballet is based on the classic French fairytale by Charles Perrault: a beautiful princess is cursed by an evil fairy, and doomed to sleep for a hundred years--only to be awakened by the kiss of the handsome prince who loves her. Desmond Heeley's spectacular designs beautifully evoke the magic, drama and whimsy of this great work.
Since its debut in 1990, Houston Ballet’s "The Sleeping Beauty" remains a flagship work for the company and is recognized as a supreme achievement of classical ballet.
Princess Aurora, Prince Florimund, Carabosse, Lilac Fairy, King Florestan XXIV, The Queen, The Countess, The White Cat, Puss-in-Boots, Princess Florine, The Bluebird
The court of King Florestan is celebrating the christening of Princess Aurora. The courtiers are assembled around her cradle as the festivities begin. The king and queen enter, followed by six fairies and their cavaliers. Each fairy dances, offering her special gift to the infant princess. Suddenly, before the Lilac Fairy can present her gift, the wicked Fairy Carabosse interrupts the ceremony. Angry because she has not been invited, Carabosse delivers a curse upon the tiny princess: she will grow up to be beautiful, but one day will prick her finger and die. The Lilac Fairy intervenes, promising that the princess will but sleep until awakened by a prince's kiss.
It is Aurora's sixteenth birthday party. Her father informs her that she must select one of four visiting princes as her husband. Aurora dances with the princes, each of whom offers her a rose and declares his love. As the celebration continues, the disguised Carabosse hands Aurora a bouquet in which a spindle is concealed. Aurora pricks her finger, and as she falls the Lilac Fairy appears and casts her spell, putting the entire court to sleep.
One hundred years have passed. Prince Florimund and his hunting party stop beside a lake. As the hunt moves on the prince is left alone. To his amazement, the Lilac Fairy appears and conjures a vision of Princess Aurora. Enchanted by the vision, Prince Florimund begs the Lilac Fairy to lead him to Aurora. A boat takes them to the castle, where they are confronted by Carabosse, who turns herself into a monster. With help from the Lilac Fairy, the prince overpowers Carabosse. Once inside the castle, Prince Florimund discovers the sleeping Aurora and awakens her with a kiss.
The court is celebrating the wedding of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund. Characters from other fairy tales have joined the celebration. After Aurora and Florimund's grand pas de deux, the occasion ends as the entire court joins in the finale.
Ben Stevenson served as artistic director of Houston Ballet from 1976 to 2003, raising the company from a regional troupe of twenty-eight dancers to an internationally acclaimed ensemble of over fifty artists. During his tenure, he developed Houston Ballet’s repertory by acquiring the works of the world’s most respected choreographers, commissioning new works, staging the classics and choreographing original works. For his contributions to international dance, Mr. Stevenson was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Honors List in December 1999. In April 2000, he was presented with the Dance Magazine Award. In July 2003, he was appointed artistic director emeritus of Houston Ballet, and the company's affiliated school was renamed Houston Ballet's Ben Stevenson Academy in recognition of his enormous contribution to both Houston Ballet's professional company and its school. In his position as artistic director emeritus, he continues to stage his works for Houston Ballet and for other companies nationally and internationally. Mr. Stevenson, a native of Portsmouth, England, received his dance training at the Arts Educational School in London. Upon his graduation, he was awarded the prestigious Adeline Genée Gold Medal, the highest award given to a dancer by the Royal Academy of Dancing. He performed with the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet and English National Ballet where, as a principal dancer, he performed leading roles in all the classics. In 1968, Rebekah Harkness invited him to New York to direct the newly formed Harkness Youth Dancers. After choreographing Cinderella in 1970 for the National Ballet in Washington, D.C., he joined the company in 1971 as co-director with Frederic Franklin. In 1976, Mr. Stevenson was appointed artistic director of Houston Ballet. Over the next twenty-seven years, he choreographed for Houston Ballet distinguished versions of the full length works Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Don Quixote, and original productions of Peer Gynt, Dracula, The Snow Maiden, and Cleopatra. In July 2003, Mr. Stevenson assumed the artistic directorship of Texas Ballet Theater in Fort Worth, Texas where he continues to serve as Artistic Director with Associate Artistic Directors Tim O'Keefe and Lin Anlin.
Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, in Vyatka, Russia. His work was first publicly performed in 1865. In 1868, his First Symphony was well-received. In 1874, he established himself with Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Minor. Tchaikovsky resigned from the Moscow Conservatory in 1878, and spent the rest of his career composing yet more prolifically. He died in St. Petersburg on November 6, 1893. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is widely considered the most popular Russian composer in history. His ballet scores includes the The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. He once said, “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”
The Sleeping Beauty Repertoire History
This was Houston Ballet’s eighth time performing Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty with Desmond Heeley designs as part of its main season. Selections from The Sleeping Beauty have been performed during various performances at Miller Outdoor Theater, the Woodlands, Academy Spring Showcase, and Jubliee of Dance.
The Sleeping Beauty Production Details
ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHER: Marius Ivanovich Petipa
GENRE: Classical Ballet
RUN TIME: Ballet in 3 Acts with a Prologue; approximately 3 hours
COMPOSER: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
SCORE: “The Sleeping Beauty”
ORIGINAL PREMIERE DATE: January 16, 1890 at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia by the Imperial Ballet renamed Mariinsky Ballet
HOUSTON BALLET PREMIERE DATE: September 28, 1978 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in Houston, TX (with Peter Farmer designs)
BEN STEVENSON PRODUCTION PREMIERE DATE: May 24, 1990 in the Brown Theater at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, TX (with Desmond Heeley designs)
BEN STEVENSON PRODUCTION COSTUME DESIGN: Desmond Heeley, after Peter Farmer
BEN STEVENSON PRODUCTION SET DESIGN: Desmond Heeley, after Peter Farmer
BEN STEVENSON PRODUCTION LIGHTING DESIGN: Lisa Pinkham, after Duane Schuler
STAGER FOR HOUSTON BALLET (2016): Ben Stevenson OBE
HOUSTON BALLET ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR (2016): Ermanno Florio and David LaMarche
HOUSTON BALLET STAGE MANAGER (2016): Rachael Fernandez