GIUSEPPE PENNISI watches and listens to
Tchaikovsky's 'Sleeping Beauty'
The best known musical theatre adaptation of Jacques Perrault's short novel La Belle au Bois Dormant ('Sleeping Beauty') is, no doubt, Tchaikovsky's 1890 ballet commissioned by the Russian Imperial Theatres. This was a special opportunity to listen to and see the ballet at Teatro dell'Opera di Roma just after having heard and seen Respighi's opera on the same subject at Teatro Lirico Cagliari ('Full of Irony', 6 February 2017). They are only some thirty years apart but belong to very different musical worlds, or rather universes. The ballet is a long, grand, romantic show which, if performed unabridged, has Wagnerian dimensions (almost four hours including intermissions). The opera is a very ironic comedy of about one hour and a half. The Tchaikovsky has a late Romantic score based on a very nineteenth century topic: the fight between good and evil with two leitmotivs (for good and evil) always confronting each other. The Respighi is clearly twentieth century, as shown by its foxtrot ending. The ballet requires a large stage and a huge corps de ballet in addition to over twenty soloists; it was conceived for the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, the most important of the imperial theatres. The opera was planned for the small Teatro Odescalchi in Rome, specialized in marionette performances.
Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty arrived quite late on Rome's stages, but since 1954, it has been programmed about every three years at the Teatro dell'Opera and can be also seen in other theatres, occasionally with taped music instead of an orchestra. The version I saw on the opening night, 8 February 2017, was labeled as a new production. As a matter of fact, the stage sets and costumes by Aldo Buti have been the same since 2002, and there are no reasons to change them; they are elegant and effective, as the photos show.