The Sleeping Beauty

Description

Victoria Bertram as Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty (ca. 1980).

 

Our History

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The earliest versions of The Sleeping Beauty performed by The National Ballet of Canada between 1953 and 1959 featured a series of short dances from the final act. These excerpts were performed in various high school auditoriums and other small venues across North America. 

Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora costume sketches for Dances From The Sleeping Beauty designed by Kay Ambrose (1957). 

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On October 24, 1960, the National Ballet presented a new version of the ballet entitled Princess Aurora. This version was a compilation of dances from the Prologue featuring the fairy variations, as well as dances from the first and third act. Included were the familiar fairytale characters Princess Florine and the Bluebird, The White Cat and Puss-n-Boots, and Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. 

Puss-n-boots mask (1960). 

 Tennant Nureyev copy 1  Rudolf Nureyev’s production of The Sleeping Beauty starring Veronica Tennant and the choreographer himself premiered at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on September 1, 1972.  Built at a cost of $412,500, it was the most expensive ballet the company had produced to date.  The venture went almost a third over-budget causing several members of the National Ballet's Board of Directors to mortgage their homes to help fund it. 

Shortly after the production’s premiere, the National Ballet partnered with the CBC to film The Sleeping Beauty. The production was recorded in October 1972 and premiered on CBC television on December 20, 1972. In 1973, The Sleeping Beauty won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program, Classical Music. 

Veronica Tennant and Rudolf Nureyev rehearsing for the CBC television taping of The Sleeping Beauty (1972). 

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In 1973, Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn travelled to the 2nd International Ballet Competition in Moscow, Russia, and performed the Bluebird Pas de Deux from Nureyev’s The Sleeping Beauty. Kain won the Silver Medal in the Women’s Category and 1st prize with Augustyn for best Pas de Deux. The pair were dubbed the "Gold-Dust Twins" due to their magnificent performance at the Moscow competition.

Princess Florine costume (1972). 

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The National Ballet of Canada’s production of The Sleeping Beauty became a favourite to perform on tour. In 1973, The Sleeping Beauty traversed North America under impresario Sol Hurok, and the company had its New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera House. The large production continued to be performed around the world including many returns to New York, and tours to Europe and Israel. 

Artists of the Ballet on stage of the Roman Amphitheatre in Caesarea, Israel (1994). 

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The Sleeping Beauty was selected for the company’s inaugural performance on November 9, 2006 in the brand new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. In preparation, the aging sets and costumes from the original production of The Sleeping Beauty underwent a $700,000 refurbishment.  The National Ballet of Canada’s Wardrobe Department revived 340 costumes and 122 wigs, and built 21 new costumes for the Naiads, the water nymphs appearing in the Act II vision sequence. Budgetary constraints did not allow for the costumes to be built originally and the Fairy Attendant costumes from the Prologue were used for over 30 years instead.  Scenic artists from the Production Department also repainted 14 backdrops, and repaired 35 more. Over 100 props were restored, along with over 50 set pieces. 

Production staff refurbishing The Sleeping Beauty backdrops (2006). 

Your Stories

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"In the early 1970s, I was reluctantly dragged to see ballet for the first time. The performance was Rudolf Nureyev dancing in his own production of The Sleeping Beauty with Veronica Tennant, Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn. The overture began, the curtain went up and the dancing started. I was hooked. It changed my life."

- Mr. John Theo, Audience Member, 40+ years 

"When I was 11, in the 1970s, I saw an ad for the ballet. I couldn't decide between The Sleeping Beauty and Coppélia, so my mom said we could get tickets for both but "if you don't like the first ballet you still have to go for the second, sit there and not complain!" First up was Veronica Tennant and Peter Schaufuss in The Sleeping Beauty. I loved it and it ignited a lifelong passion for ballet. I happily went back for Coppélia a week or so later, this time seeing Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn. If that experience wasn't exciting enough I got to meet Veronica Tennant at intermission when she was signing copies of her book On Stage, Please."

- Carolyn Houghton, Audience Member, 30+ years 

"My fondest memory is of my first time watching The Sleeping Beauty. The whole experience was so moving I was actually crying. The costumes, performances and sets were so beautiful. I look forward to each and every ballet I can attend. Thank you for some great memories."

- Mrs. Lucy Valente, Audience Member, 25+ years 

"My Memory: Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn's return to Toronto after a wonderful competition in Europe to perform superbly in the Bluebird Pas de Deux. I recall the thrill of my partner and I watching their exhilarating, powerful performance."

- Mr. Peter Savage, Audience Member, 30+ years 

"My fondest memory is of my first time watching The Sleeping Beauty. The whole experience was so moving I was actually crying. The costumes, performances and sets were so beautiful. I look forward to each and every ballet I can attend. Thank you for some great memories."

- Mrs. Lucy Valente, Audience Member, 25+ Years 

"My favourite memory of The National Ballet of Canada was in 1972, the curtain calls following Rudolph Nureyev and Karen Kain's performance of The Sleeping Beauty. Magnificent, history in the making!"

- Valerie Cunningham Jenkins, Audience Member, 50+ Years 

"I was at the ballet with my then 14 year-old daughter when Rudolph Nureyev bounded across the stage in The Sleeping Beauty with his spectacular jumps. It was an unforgettable performance and we still talk about it."

- Anita Ekstein, Audience Member, 30+ Years