Leigh Witchel

The Lilac Fairy

37 posts in this topic

I'm a firm believer in the Lilac Fairy as the fulcrum of the ballet. To me, she's got to be at the center of the work, and that's where she usually is in the Martins production. There are a few things I quibble with for that reason.

I have a problem with the Lilac being among five other fairies so she's off-center. If she's to be a dancing role, you need six other fairies somehow for balance, or else she's diminished in the group dances.

This is a lighting issue rather than a choreography problem, but the followspot isn't fully on the Lilac when she gives the rejoinder to Carabosse's curse. She's got to be brighter than Carabosse at that moment, or she seems weak.

Martins has the Lilac dance in the final Mazurka. You might as well have the King and Queen dance (I shouldn't say that - Nureyev did just that.) She oversees the proceedings, I don't think she should participate.

How do you feel about the Lilac Fairy? What role should she play? Any memorable Lilac Fairies you've particularly loved?

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We have the Ronald Hynd staging at Pacific Northwest Ballet, so our SB is firmly in the English tradition (which posed some challenges for the company when it was first set). This production has six subsidiary fairies (Beauty, Temperament, Purity, Joy, Wit, and Generosity) so Lilac is centered in the "group photo" moments. She is very much the lead fairy, directs traffic, deals directly with the court as well as with Carabosse. She has the lion's share of the mime, and does some mild flying as well. She gets that lovely, sweeping waltz in the prologue (and some killer releves to go with it) -- it's my favorite music in the ballet

Ariana Lallone frequently dances Lilac (as a tall woman, she often gets "powerful" roles, like Hippolyta in Midsummer) and does very well with it. Nice gravitas, good mime, and great wand waving (I'm not being flippant -- many dancers do an awful job with a wand).

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Lilac Fairy should definately be front and center. The music tells you so.

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Memorable Lilac Fairies? Lubov Kunakova of the Kirov and Nina Speranskaya of the Bolshoi.

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Memorable Lilac Fairy? Mine will always be Diana Adams--true, she was only in a one-act version, b ut her variation (the one with the Sissones) is one I will never forget.

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I prefer only six fairies (including Lilac). I don't know why. But Petipa managed to put her front and center most of the time, so I don't really see what the problem is. There are only a few times that she is really part of the group, and a good Lilac should be able to make it seem as if she is "front and center" even then.

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Yes, Mashinka, Kunakova was a gorgeous Lilac Fairy! My favorite was -- and will probably forever be -- Martine van Hamel. :wink:

To me, the overriding aspect of Lilac's purpose in the ballet is that she is, in effect, the narrator. She is the thread that holds the ballet together from Prologue through Wedding. (She does not belong in the Mazurka, though!) When she appears at the Christening as one of six fairies (I like that, too, Hans), she should be The Charismatic One, the one who makes sure -- without effort -- that your eye is fixed on her.

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The current RB production has five fairies plus Lilac and after reading this thread I took particular notice last night of how Makarova deals with it. Sometimes she just cheats by having one of the five leave the stage or stand protectively by the baby's cradle; other times she has the Songbird fairy arrive late, all of a flutter, and I still haven't worked out if this is meant to be funny. The only bit that looks really weird is when all six line up at the front of the stage for what used to be supported-pirouette-into-attitude but is now just pose-in-arabesque: the fairies at the ends of the line are each supported by one of the LF's attendants, and the LF herself - who of course is off-centre - gets two of them to hold her up - it looks as if they've decided she's the one most likely to fall over.

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With a really good Lilac, it hardly matters if she's placed dead center, and with a really mediocre one, it also hardly matters.

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Muriel Maffre at SanFrancisco Ballet is a magnificently commanding figure as hte Lilac Fairy -- good, beautiful, and at key moments she's mesmerizing -- she actually hears and makes you see the music say "No, hte princess shall not die"....

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when the kirov brought the 'newold' sleeping beauty to the met, i thought veronika part was perfect as the lilac.

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I agree that Lilac Fairy should be front and center. Tchaikovsky's use of her gorgeous theme music appears in the Prelude, when she confronts Carabosse, in Act I when she assures the King and Queen that Aurora is asleep then sends the court into dreamland, and finally when she appears to Prince Desire in Act II.

My favorite Lilac Fairy was Marguerite Porter in a Royal Ballet tv broadcast I saw in the early '80's starring Anthony Dowell and Leslie Collier or Merle Park. Did anyone else see this? Was it Collier or Park?

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I personally dislike the whole Lilac Fairy Variation, actually i really don't like sleeping beauty at all. Some of the variations are pretty but there are too many codas, to many variations, and it doesn't tickle my fancy. If i had to pick the leader fairy i wouldn't pick lilac, there are so many other fairies( finger,crystal, woodland glade, canary ....and that other one) the composer could of chosen... it upsets me. :angry:

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You have to remember where the ballet was first performed. An old Russian good luck charm was to give a baby a sprig of lilac or actually place the cradle under a lilac bush. The choice was not Tchaikovsky's, it was Petipa's and Vsevolozhsky's.

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wow that is very interesting

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Memorable Lilacs? Lyubov Kunakova (definitely!). Yulia Makhalina was also interesting to look at. Her lines are absolutely gorgeous when she dances after Aurora pricks herself... However, I don't think she is as "warm" as Kunakova (at least in that particular performance -- video with Lezhnina).

Also, in the scene where Aurora appears and dances a little with the Prince (for the 1st time) these two ballerinas do it a little differently. For example, when Aurora seems to escape from the Prince, and runs behind the corps de ballet, Kunakova seems to help the Prince capture her, whereas Makhalina almost tries to prevent him from capturing Aurora... I just thought it was an interesting observation.

Edited by mohnurka

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My favorite Lilac Fairy was Deanne Bergsma in Royal Ballet. The first time she appeared in NY she brought the house down. Every one commented on how she seemed to just unfold and unfold in her opening variation. And all commented on how tall she was.

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It's strange that nobody mentioned Alla Osipenko. For me she is the one and only.

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I don't want start a new thread, so I post my Lilac-related question here.

If Lilac's gift to Aurora was to neutralize Carabosse's curse, what was the gift that Lilac was about to grant when she was interrupted by Carabosse?

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I believe it is wisdom, as the lilac represents wisdom in Russian folklore.

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It is never stated, either in the ballet's libretto, or the original Perrault tale, but it must have had something to do with wisdom. A tradition of Russian baby- and childhood is to be given a birthday party where the baby or child is lain or seated under a lilac bush. In Russian tradition, the lilac is a symbol for wisdom.

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It's strange that nobody mentioned Alla Osipenko. For me she is the one and only.

Dear Andrei I agree that Alla Osipenko was an extraordinary Lilac Fairy at a time when the Kirov Ballet was at its most classical and I treasure that memory alongside Irina Kolpakova and Vladilen Semyenov

as the perfect classicists as Aurora and Prince Florimund.

Alla Osipenko was beautiful physically and facially conveying an elevated power that exuded a powerful mystery upon an impressionable teenager.

I also agree with esperanto that Deanne Bergsma was an extraordinary Lilac Fairy who was a good fairy incarnate. Her grandeur of movement and the warmth of her expression reflected a spiritual quality not matched since in my experience except by Lyubov Kunakova whom mohnurka referred to.

KitriSpanishDancer says, "I personally dislike the whole Lilac Fairy Variation, actually i really don't like sleeping beauty at all. Some of the variations are pretty but there are too many codas, to many variations, and it doesn't tickle my fancy. If i had to pick the leader fairy i wouldn't pick lilac, there are so many other fairies( finger,crystal, woodland glade, canary ....and that other one) the composer could of chosen... it upsets me. :angry:"

Connoisseurs of Academic Classical Ballet have over generations referred to "The Sleeping Beauty" as the apogee of the genre. A statement to which I can add nothing except to concur.

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I also agree with esperanto that Deanne Bergsma was an extraordinary Lilac Fairy who was a good fairy incarnate. Her grandeur of movement and the warmth of her expression reflected a spiritual quality not matched since in my experience except by Lyubov Kunakova whom mohnurka referred to.

Hear, hear! :)

Sadly I never saw Osipenko in the role, but there is one more name that should be mentioned: Nina Speranskaya.

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I also agree with esperanto that Deanne Bergsma was an extraordinary Lilac Fairy who was a good fairy incarnate. Her grandeur of movement and the warmth of her expression reflected a spiritual quality not matched since in my experience except by Lyubov Kunakova whom mohnurka referred to.

Hear, hear! :)

Bergsma was my first Lilac Fairy and she seemed just majestic to me. I was slightly familiar with Sleeping Beauty from the usual childhood fairy tales but also from a 45PRM record telling the story. This used excerpts from the Tchaikovsky score so when I first saw the full length ballet, I already knew the major "themes". My favorite was the one associated with the Lilac Fairy and when Bergsma came on stage, it was just a perfect match!

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