The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty


Rudolf Nureyev's The Sleeping Beauty celebrates its 50th anniversary this season! Nureyev put The National Ballet of Canada on the map when he staged this stunning version of The Sleeping Beauty for the company in 1972. Showy and opulent, it set off an unprecedented period of international touring and acclaim for the young company and its dancers and it remains a jewel in the National Ballet repertoire today. Full of dazzling variations and set to Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable score, The Sleeping Beauty is a ballet lover’s dream.

The Story

King Florestan and his Queen attend the christening of their baby daughter, Princess Aurora, where they are interrupted by the evil fairy Carabosse. Angered that she was not invited to the christening, Carabosse tells the court that Princess Aurora will one day prick her finger and die. The gentle Lilac Fairy amends the curse, promising that Aurora will not die but rather fall asleep for a hundred years, until she is kissed by a prince.

Read Full Synopsis

Five Things to Know
  1. 1The Sleeping Beauty premiered in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. It is one of three collaborations between Marius Petipa and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the others being Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
  2. 2Rudolf Nureyev expanded the role of Prince Florimund, giving him more dancing than in other productions. In Nureyev’s version, Prince Florimund has three solos and a grand pas de deux instead of the single variation handed down from Petipa. This makes sense, given that Nureyev performed the role himself.
  3. 3CBC Television produced a film version of The Sleeping Beauty in 1972 directed by Norman Campbell. The film earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program, Classical Music and featured Veronica Tennant as Princess Aurora, Rudolf Nureyev as Prince Florimund, Karen Kain as Princess Florine and Frank Augustyn as Bluebird.
  4. 4The Rose Adagio is one of the most famous elements in The Sleeping Beauty. Noted for its difficulty, the Adagio requires Princess Aurora to perform a series of unsupported balances on one leg as she moves from suitor to suitor.
  5. 5Princess Florine and the Bluebird are coveted roles in The Sleeping Beauty. Their pas de deux is thrilling to watch, with fast turns, leaps and beats (batterie). Some consider this pas de deux an ideal expression of Petipa’s style.
The Choreographer

Rudolf Nureyev trained in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) before joining the Kirov Ballet, gradually distinguishing himself as one of the great male dancers of his generation. After defecting from the Soviet Union, he formed an historic partnership with Margot Fonteyn. He was Artistic Director of Paris Opéra Ballet from 1983 to 1989 and its Principal Choreographer until 1992.

The Composer

The late 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His body of work includes full-length operas, multiple symphonies and concertos.

Sleeping Beauty View Gallery

Ballet Talk


“I have seen many 'Sleeping Beauties,' but never a finer one than this moving and beautiful production....This is a company of strength at every level.” —The Washington Post

“Dazzling… the National Ballet glitters in this gem of a production.” —The Globe and Mail

“ ★★★★/4 With such dancing this Beauty never slumbers.” —Toronto Star

Running Time

  • Prologues & Act I 1h 5m
  • Intermission 15m
  • Act II 37m
  • Intermission 15m
  • Act III 38m
  • Total (approx) 2h 50m


Produced, originally staged and with additional choreography:
Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Petipa

Staged by:
Karen Kain, C.C., LL. D., D.Litt., O Ont. and the Artistic Staff of The National Ballet of Canada

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Set and Costume Design:
Nicholas Georgiadis

Lighting Design:
David Hersey

Premiere: Teatro alla Scala, Teatro alla Scala Opera House, Milan, Italy, September 22, 1966
The National Ballet of Canada Premiere: National Arts Centre, Ottawa, September 1,1972

The Sleeping Beauty is made possible by generous contributions from Margaret Fleck & Jim Fleck, C.C., The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Gretchen Ross and Nancy Pencer & Michael Benjamin.

Running Time

  • Prologues & Act I 1h 5m
  • Intermission 15m
  • Act II 37m
  • Intermission 15m
  • Act III 38m
  • Total (approx) 2h 50m

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