Last night, I had one of the most overwhelmingly beautiful experiences of my life.
At the invitation of friends, Brian and I went to Portland to see the Oregon Ballet Theatre's production of The Sleeping Beauty. As I sat in the darkened theatre, the lushness of set design, the lavishness of costume, the sheer athleticism of trained dancers drew me in and held me spellbound. But it was the music, the classic masterpiece of Peter Tchaikovsky, that made me weep. Even now as I consider the lovely themes repeated throughout, my heart is full of gratitude for excellence, for unparalleled power and beauty that has transcended the decades and, even now, thrills audiences just as it did when it was introduced in 1890 in St. Petersburg.
In Tchaikovsky's own words, describing his commission to score the ballet: "The subject is so poetic, so grateful for music, that I have worked on it with delight, and written it with the warmth and enthusiasm upon which the worth of a composition so much depends."
That warmth and enthusiasm and poetry are evident throughout and sing with the strings.
The Artistic Director of the Oregon Ballet Theatre, Christopher Stowell, calls The Sleeping Beauty: "the pinnacle of Tchaikovsky's music. If anyone can conjure up a better sound-scape for a fairy tale, I want to hear it."
Even the geniuses at Walt Disney Studios recognized the timelessness of this music, and found ways to interweave Tchaikovsky's themes throughout their animated classic, Sleeping Beauty. Their use of this music has wound its way into my heart all through my life.
Perhaps that is what struck such a chord with me. It possessed an air of familiarity, an enchanting melody that often accompanies my subconscious moments, or becomes a soundtrack for my daydreams. It all came alive in a "bigger than life" way. It was like stepping into one of my favorite parallel realms and losing myself in the magnificence.
There is a reason The Sleeping Beauty has set the standard for classical ballet. One hundred and twenty years ago in St. Petersburg, through the collaborative efforts of inspired artists, The Sleeping Beauty: "lifted an art form that had evolved for 500 years to new heights, won the youth of their generation over to ballet, and created a work that still speaks to peope of all times and all cultures....To my mind, it is here that we find the deeper theme of The Sleeping Beauty, much more than the Perrault fairy tale," says Stowell. "In striving for the purest and most beautiful dancing, the art form of ballet finds continual reawakening. This is classical virtue in the fullest sense of the word. It's about aristocratic responsibility, not in an elitist way, but in the sense that a leader should be the most virtuous, the one who sets the finest example."
I am grateful there is a benchmark, an ideal, that sets a standard of virtue. May it continue for another hundred years to inspire, to thrill, to entertain, to uplift. This is why we have the Arts. This lifts spirits. This elevates our thinking and our dreaming. May it whisper to your heart the way it whispered to mine:
"I know you; I walked with you once upon a dream..."