Music is wonderfully versatile. It can help us to teach and explore an endless range of topics, therefore encouraging young minds to listen hard, think inquisitively, and ask imaginative questions. Many brilliant stories have been set to music throughout time. Music helps to bring them alive, to make them memorable, and also to help children to empathise with the characters. Sleeping Beauty is one such story! This post explores this timeless story and the music that accompanies it, with ideas for how to introduce it to your children at home.
Sleeping Beauty – Telling The Story
An evil fairy, angry to have been forgotten, puts a spell on the young Princess Aurora at her Christening – one day she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. A good fairy weakens the curse. Instead the Princess will fall asleep for 100 years, and may only be awakened by the kiss of a Prince.
The King orders that every spinning wheel be destroyed. Alas, on the Princess’s 16th birthday, she meets an old lady, spinning in a room at the castle. Before it can be prevented, the Princess pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep. The good fairy puts everyone else into a long sleep, so that the Princess will not be alone when she wakes. She conjures a big forest of brambles around the castle, to protect it and its occupants.
After 100 years, a Prince is riding nearby, and hears the tale of the sleeping Princess. He fights his way through the dangerous forest to the bedside of the beautiful Princess, where he bends to kiss her. She awakens, along with the rest of the castle. Falling in love at first sight, the Prince and Princess marry, and live happily ever after.
The Sleeping Beauty Ballet
Tchaikovsky wrote The Sleeping Beauty ballet in the late nineteenth-century – it was premiered in 1890. It is his longest ballet, with over 3 hours of music! The music is magical, full of enchantment and wonder. It is built on 2 main themes – 1 representing good, and 1 representing evil. The whole ballet is based on the idea of good conquering evil! Some of the music may already be familiar, such as the Waltz from Act I:
It is rich and exciting, and will be sure to have your little one dancing around the living room!
Introducing The Sleeping Beauty to Your Child: A 5-Step Plan
Read the story
There have been some wonderful tellings of it for children. Try this Usborne version for little ones, this Disney version for slightly older ones, or this original Grimms’ book for even older children. Finally, for something more quirky and current, you could try this modern rewriting, set in the future!
Watch the Disney movie
Disney created a version in 1959, adapted from the original version, and full of Tchaikovsky’s music! The character of Maleficent (the evil fairy) has been developed more, but the beauty of it is unchanged.
Watch the ballet.
Perhaps the most important step of all – to see the work in its original form! Watch the wonderful choreography, the stunning costumes, and the beautiful dancers, as they bring Tchaikovsky’s music to life. Waltz around the room as you watch all the fairies, the Prince and the Princess come alive.
If you feel really inspired, you can book tickets to see The Sleeping Beauty ballet live at the Royal Opera House until 14th March 2017! http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/the-sleeping-beauty-by-marius-petipa
Listen to the music from The Sleeping Beauty
- Decide which bits represent good, and which represent evil. Furthermore, talk about other fairy stories where good conquers evil. Can your child describe how Tchaikovsky’s music could fit with other fairy stories as well? Which characters are worthy of the good music? And which characters are worthy of the evil music? Ask them to draw pictures of the things they think of when listening to each of the two different themes. Music is excellent for describing feeling that we can’t always put into words – and drawing pictures can help us to do this.
Make The Sleeping Beauty come alive
Dress up as little Princes and Princesses, good fairies and evil fairies. Prepare a feast of favourite foods, just like the one at Aurura’s Christening. Play a game of Sleeping Lions, to see who can sleep for 100 years. Head to the park and pretend you are the Prince, fighting your way through the trees to the castle. Blast the music from your speakers as you waltz around and reenact this wonderful piece!