The first measures of music you hear in Tchaikovsky’s score for “The Sleeping Beauty” are dramatic, energetic, even heroic. You could easily imagine that they depict Prince Désiré as he fights his way into the castle to waken the sleeping Princess Aurora with a kiss. In fact, the ballet’s opening theme belongs to its antihero, not to say villain: Carabosse, the fairy who’s (inadvertently?) omitted from the guest list for baby Aurora’s christening, the one who puts the spell on the princess, dooming her to prick her finger on a spindle and die at age 16. Carabosse is the thorn to Aurora’s rose, so she’s not a popular character in this fairy tale. With her spindle, too, she represents working women — another fairy-tale no-no. In other words, she’s essential to the story, even though she doesn’t wear pointe shoes and her role is almost all mime. Boston Ballet, in the production of “The Sleeping Beauty” that opens Friday at the Boston Opera House, has cast two of its principal dancers in the role: Yury Yanowsky and Erica Cornejo.
The first Carabosse, in the Imperial Ballet production that premiered in St. Petersburg in 1890, was no less than Enrico Cecchetti, founder of one of the major ballet training systems, the Cecchetti method. Although he was 39 when he played Carabosse in that production, he was hardly over the hill: He also danced Bluebird in the third act. (At one point in the ballet’s gestation, Carabosse and her rats were to have appeared, presumably rehabilitated, in the polo-naise procession of fairy-tale characters at the beginning of the third act, but Cecchetti’s dual casting made that impossible.) Famous Carabosses since have included former Royal Ballet artistic directors Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell, and Monica Mason.