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The Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty

Although my only qualification is enthusiasm, I lead a ballet appreciation group and recently sent the following to members. Thought it might interest Forum members.

In the last Act of The Sleeping Beauty Puss-in-Boots and Little Red Riding Hood appear, these characters being from Charles Perrault’s fairytales, published in 1697. The Act also includes the Bluebird and Princess Florine. Although I’ve seen the ballet many times I’ve not understood why a Bluebird and a Princess Florine appear. Having watched various parts of the recent streaming by the Royal Opera House ­– I enjoyed Fumi Kaneko’s performance as Aurora – I turned to the internet to find out about these two characters, having only come across bluebirds flying over Judy Garland’s rainbow.

Evidently, in mythology, the bluebird is a sign of happiness, prosperity, good health, and the arrival of Spring, the blue plumage being associated with the sky and eternal happiness. I found what I consider a possible connection between a bluebird and the ballet in Wikipedia’s ‘The Blue Bird (fairy tale)’. This fairy tale was published by Baroness d’Aulnoy in 1697 (the same year Perrault published his stories), the Baroness being the person who in 1690 first coined the phrase ‘fairytale’. Very briefly the plot is: widower King, who has beautiful daughter Princess Florine, marries not very nice widowed Queen who has ugly, selfish daughter Truitonne. Visiting the kingdom, Prince Charming falls in love with Florine, Queen and daughter do all they can to prevent Prince Charming and Princess Florine marrying so that he marries Truitonne instead, and as a last resort Truitonne’s fairy godmother turns the Prince into a bluebird. But all ends happily ever after for the Prince and Princess Florine. So, perhaps an explanation of why the Bluebird and Princess Florine appear in the ballet. As a child Aurora would have known this story along with those of Puss-In-Boots and Little Red Riding Hood.

To round off, back to Judy Garland’s song, the second verse:

Somewhere over the rainbow

Bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow,

Why then, oh why can’t I?

 

If happy little bluebirds fly

Beyond the rainbow,

Why, oh why can’t I?

In the film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told by her Aunt to find a place where she won’t get into more trouble. Dorothy muses, ‘is there a place where there isn’t any trouble?’. Thinking there must be, but you cannot get there by a boat or a train, she imagines such a place being ‘far, far away ... beyond the rainbow’. At their wedding to their Prince, both Princess Florine and Princess Aurora would of course be ‘over the rainbow’ with happiness.

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The Perm Ballet streamed a whole ballet 'The Bluebird and Princess Florine' based on the story. The composer was Adolphe Adam. It was a very traditional Russian ballet, quite old fashioned. I didn't make a note of the choreographer but it can't have been Petipa as Nadine Meisner doesn't list it in her lengthy biography.

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6 hours ago, SheilaC said:

... I didn't make a note of the choreographer ...

 

The choreographer and author of libretto for this ballet was Alexey Miroshnichenko. After 11 successful years as the Chief Choreographer of Perm Ballet he left this post in order to pursue a freelance career.

Edited by Amelia
Added the last sentence.
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On 03/08/2020 at 15:25, jonac said:

The Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty

...

In the last Act of The Sleeping Beauty Puss-in-Boots and Little Red Riding Hood appear, these characters being from Charles Perrault’s fairytales, published in 1697. The Act also includes the Bluebird and Princess Florine...This fairy tale was published by Baroness d’Aulnoy in 1697 (the same year Perrault published his stories), the Baroness being the person who in 1690 first coined the phrase ‘fairytale’.

 

What a good subject jonac, thank you for raising it. You might like to read yourself further into the stories: other d’Aulnoy characters appear in the ballet (the White Cat, for example). Not sure you have the dates exactly right though (1698 is the publication date more usually given for her work). 

 

Christine A. Jones's scholarly introduction to "Mother Goose Refigured" (2016) is well worth searching out as it is up-to-date and deals with far more than just Perrault.

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Thank you Sebastian. Might well read further stories. I stated 1697 since it is the year given in Wikipedia, but I have noted that an endnote reads 'with republication in several compilations', which might explain the different dates given.

And SheilaC and jmhopton, over yesterday and today have watched The Bluebird and Princess Florine. A pleasant ballet, glad I watched it, would pay a reasonable amount to see it live.

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2 hours ago, jonac said:

I stated 1697 since it is the year given in Wikipedia

 

Far be from me to quarrel with Wikipedia (however as it happens French Wikipedia gives the other date). The year is crucial, at least in the rather heated academic field of fairy tale scholarship, because of determining whether or not Perrault produced his collection before d’Aulnoy issued hers (as is now broadly accepted). There were also other writers working at around the same time, but none who had an impact on the Sleeping Beauty.

 

So far as the Blue Bird in the ballet is concerned you might like to look at this PhD from 2017, as it has a whole section on this (pretty good though perhaps hampered somewhat by the sources being restricted to texts in English):-

 

https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/47390/BELL-DISSERTATION-2017.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

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I remember a very old film called The Blue Bird in which Nadezhda Pavlova danced. Wikipedia  helped me to identify it as a film made by George Cukor in 1976  The story of the two children who search for the bird was also mentioned in Noel Streatfeild's Dancing Shoes.

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I was fascinated by this discussion.  Petipa choreographed the Bluebirds as a fairy tale with a story, as much as Puss-in-Boots, Little Red Riding Hood (and Cinderella).

 

The Vaganova Academy teaches the choreography carefully in terms of the story and its interpretation - and the Mariinsky perform it in the same context.

 

Some European companies treat the pas de deux as a bravura exercise with scant regard to the story - which has led to some interesting differences of opinion backstage.

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1 hour ago, li tai po said:

I was fascinated by this discussion.  Petipa choreographed the Bluebirds as a fairy tale with a story, as much as Puss-in-Boots, Little Red Riding Hood (and Cinderella).

 

The Vaganova Academy teaches the choreography carefully in terms of the story and its interpretation - and the Mariinsky perform it in the same context.

 

Some European companies treat the pas de deux as a bravura exercise with scant regard to the story - which has led to some interesting differences of opinion backstage.

 

Maybe you like this work-in-progress from Ratmansky, li tai po? The Blue Bird starts around 3:15 in:—

 

https://youtu.be/ZVQTJFPqvjE

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Thank you very much, Sebastian, for this clip.  The costume makes the point that Princess Florine is a princess and not a bluebird.

 

Sadly neither Vikharev's reconstruction for the Mariinsky, nor Ratmansky's more recent reconstruction appear to have been filmed for public consumption.

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Some may find it interesting that Petipa’s instructions to Tchaikovsky for the music included a pd4 for Cinderella and Prince Fortuné and The Blue Bird and Princess Florine.  “A little andante. The  music represents the singing of birds.  Variations for Cinderella and Prince Portuné of a passionate character.  32 b[ars].  Variations for the Blue Bird and Princess Florine. 2/4 singing of bird. 24 bars. Little coda in 64 b[ars]. They kiss, like birds.”

 

Tchaikovsky wrote as requested (the waltz for Cinderella having hints of the Lilac Fairy music in it) but in the course of putting on the first production, the Cinderella music was cut and a new pd2 for Cinderella and Prince written, which appeared later in act 3 (after Red Riding Hood).

 

Also, the first libretto of the ballet lists the following fairytales in the procession at the beginning of act 3:

  1. Bluebeard and his wife
  2. Puss in Boots
  3. Marquis de Carabas, in a sedan chair, with his lackeys
  4. Goldilocks and Prince Avenant
  5. Donkey-skin and Prince Charming
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Cinderella and Prince Fortuné
  8. The Blue Bird and Princess Florine
  9. The White Cat, carried in on a pillow
  10. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
  11. Ricky of the Tuft and Princess Aimée
  12. Tom Thumb and his brothers
  13. The Ogre and Ogress
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Having begun by confessing my lack of understanding of the Bluebird and Princess Florine sequence, I'm most grateful for the responses that have been so helpful and interesting. Sebastian, I've looked at parts of the PhD work and found it helpful; and li tai po, the same goes for your point regarding the tendency of Russian companies to concentrate more of the original story. And Aruna S, you mention Nadezhda Pavlova; I would not have known of her but have the Russian Ballet Collection of Don Quixote, which I enjoy watching, in which she dances Kitri and her husband dances Basilio. Thank you to you all.

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On 07/08/2020 at 21:13, Aruna S said:

I remember a very old film called The Blue Bird in which Nadezhda Pavlova danced. Wikipedia  helped me to identify it as a film made by George Cukor in 1976  The story of the two children who search for the bird was also mentioned in Noel Streatfeild's Dancing Shoes.

The film was based on Maurice Maeterlinck's play, "The Blue Bird of Happiness" (1908).  I remember seeing this film on its release, mainly because it featured Nadezhda Pavlova (then tipped for great stardom) and other members of the Kirov Ballet (as it was then called).  It had an all-star cast, including Elizabeth Taylor as the mother and, in one of her first screen appearances, a very young Patsy Kensit as Myltyl.  I do remember Cicely Tyson being a deliciously wicked cat!  There was an earlier version, made in 1940, which was on television a few years ago.  It starred Shirley Temple as Myltyl and was enchanting.  

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  • 4 weeks later...

Apart from Nadezhda Pavlova as Bluebird there was a dancer from the Kirov Ballet Valentina Ganibalova as Water. Other roles were played by Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, Ava Gardner, Robert Morley, Patsy Kensit, Todd Lookinland, Cicely Tyson, Margarita Terekhova, Oleg Popov and a whole bunch of Russian stars. It can be watched in Russian below. Pavlova appears on 47 min.: 

 

 

Edited by Amelia
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