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Amy

Grand Pas de six - Mariinsky Ballet vs. Royal Ballet

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Here we have a comparative viewing of two versions of the Grand Pas de six from the Prologue of The Sleeping Beauty - the Mariinsky Ballet and the Royal Ballet. Now the reason I'm using these two versions is because almost every version of The Sleeping Beauty today derives from these two versions and it is rather enjoyable and fun to put them side-by-side and analyse the differences I think.




So as we can see, both versions have their differences, but they are also quite similar in ways - this is because they both derive from the notated version of The Sleeping Beauty. When deciding who is more faithful to the notation, it's quite an even answer - I know that the Royal Ballet is more faithful to the entree, adage and coda, but I'm not sure who is more faithful to the variations of the fairies, as both versions deviate from the notation to their own individual extent.


However, I do believe that the Royal Ballet dances one notated variation faithfully and that is one of the two variations notated for the Lilac Fairy that Fyodor Lupokov claimed authorship for in 1921, while the Mariinsky Ballet dances a very watered-down version of this variation. However, Stepanov notation expert, Doug Fullington has stated that this variation is notated in the same handwriting as the other fairies' variations, including Marie Petipa's variation. The Sleeping Beauty was notated around 1903, so this puts a question mark over Lopukov's authorship, but Lopukov spent the rest of his life defending how he changed the Lilac Fairy's variation. I have to say that from what I have read, Lopukov was not exactly the sharpest tool in the box - for one thing, he tried to add to the myth that Marie Petipa didn't dance in the Prologue, but all he actually did was contradict his own version and as a result, further discredited the whole myth! It's possible that maybe this variation was actually choreographed for one of the first ballerinas who succeeded Marie Petipa in the role of the Lilac Fairy, but that is just a theory on my part and I doubt we will ever know for sure.



It is clear where changes have been made in these versions from the notation and each other - the Royal Ballet's fairies all enter from different sides of the stage at the start of their variations, but they're actually all supposed to enter from upstage-right like the Mariinsky fairies. The six male cavaliers and pageboys are only present in the Royal Ballet version and as a result, the Lilac Fairy is never lifted over Aurora's cradle in the Mariinsky version. And of course, mime is used in the Royal Ballet version.


Another difference worth noting I think is the variation of the Fairy Canari - the Mariinsky Fairy imitates the playing of a musical instrument, which other versions such as the Bolshoi Ballet and Rudolf Nureyev's versions have picked up on. There are no arm movements notated for the Fairy Canari's variation, but there is a rubric stating that the wrists are to be moving at all times because she is supposed to be representing a songbird. The Mariinsky Fairy both imitates playing a musical instrument and the fluttering of a bird, which really doesn't make much sense and it throws some confusion to as what type of music she's supposed to be representing. The music clearly states that she is supposed to be representing the birdsong, so why would you have a ballerina imitating both the playing of a musical instrument and the fluttering of a bird in one whole variation? Birds don't play instruments and musicians don't flutter! Not only is it very illogical, it also looks very silly.

The Royal Ballet's version, however, makes more sense, not just in terms of the choreography, but also in terms of the fairy's name and her costume - it's brown with red, blue and yellow feathers and brown is the colour of the canary, the thrush and the nightingale; the three most famous songbirds. Although having said that, there are also yellow canaries, but despite the usage of this colour, the Mariinsky costume does not even try to represent a canary or any other kind of songbird.


Also, notice how in the Royal Ballet's version of the Adage starting from 18:52, there are some long pauses. This is following something that Petipa sometimes did in certain moments of his ballets - he would deliberately put in pauses that lasted for a few seconds so that the audience could just sit back and admire the costumes. In all fairness, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, who designed the original Sleeping Beauty costumes was a very talented costume designer and his work thoroughly deserved a lot of admiration. The same can certainly said for the costumes based on Oliver Messel's original designs.



It is also interesting how both these versions present the fairies very differently, starting of course with their names. The original names for the fairies are:

The Fairy Candide

The Fairy Fleur de farine

The Breadcrumb Fairy

The Fairy Canari

The Fairy Violente


The names in the Mariinsky Ballet version are:

The Tender Fairy

The Playful Fairy

The Generous Fairy

The Carefree Fairy

The Brave Fairy

According to Sergei Vikharev, Konstantin Sergeyev did not translate the fairies' names properly. He said that "Candide" means "simpleness", not "tenderness", which explains a lot in the next act and correct me if I'm wrong, but I assume he's referring to Aurora taking the spindle from the disguised Carabosse.


The names in the Royal Ballet version are:

The Fairy of the Crystal Fountain

The Fairy of the Enchanted Garden

The Fairy of the Woodland Glades

The Fairy of the Songbirds

The Fairy of the Golden Vine


For those of you who are wondering what the names mean, I can certainly explain some of the original fairies, but not all and if anyone can help add any further information, I'd be most grateful! Lol!

The Fairy Candide - I believe she gives Aurora the gift of beauty.

The Fairy Fleur de farine - I believe she has something to do with flowing wheat, but I have no idea what that actually means... lol!

The Breadcrumb Fairy - there is a saying that says if you sprinkle breadcrumbs over a newborn baby's cradle, it is a token that the child will never go hungry.

The Fairy Canari - she gives the gift of music and song; the canary is a famous songbird.

The Fairy Violente - the reason why she always points her fingers is because she is zapping electricity, which was new in 1890.

The Lilac Fairy - there's an old Russian belief that says if you place a newborn baby in its cradle under a lilac tree, it will bring the child good luck; this also explains why the Lilac Fairy has lilac flowers on her staff in the second act of the original production and the reconstruction.


Enjoy! smile.png

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According to John Warrack's biography of Tchaikovsky the meaning of the fairy names are: Candite (a kind of Phlox symbolising Beauty in the Language of Flowers); Fleur de Farine a kind of Convolulus (symbolising Grace in the Language of Flowers), Miettes qui Tombe - as Amy says; Canari qui Chante, the gift of Eloquence; Violante, the gift of Energy. The Lilac Fairy brings Wisdom; Warrack says placing a child's cradle under lilacs ensures this, according to Russian custom.

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According to John Warrack's biography of Tchaikovsky the meaning of the fairy names are: Candite (a kind of Phlox symbolising Beauty in the Language of Flowers); Fleur de Farine a kind of Convolulus (symbolising Grace in the Language of Flowers), Miettes qui Tombe - as Amy says; Canari qui Chante, the gift of Eloquence; Violante, the gift of Energy. The Lilac Fairy brings Wisdom; Warrack says placing a child's cradle under lilacs ensures this, according to Russian custom.

Funny that you bring up John Warrack - I got his book Tchaikovsky Ballet Music from my university library last week and it says exactly what you've just listed about the fairies.

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