Cairo Opera Ballet debuts Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty in Egypt

Ati Metwaly , Thursday 9 May 2024

The Cairo Opera Ballet Company will give its first performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's masterpiece The Sleeping Beauty on 9 May 2024. The performance will also run on 10, 12, and 13 May.

The Sleeping Beauty


The Sleeping Beauty is part of Tchaikovsky's famed trilogy including Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. The latter two have already made it to the Cairo Opera Ballet Company’s repertoire, with The Nutcracker being performed every Christmas season.

A timeless gem!

“The Sleeping Beauty is a very important classical ballet, and we have never performed it,” Erminia Kamel, the troupe's artistic director told Ahram Online.

None of the foreign ballet companies visiting Cairo Opera performed the full work with the full cast, she added. 

The new production took months of preparation: “New scenography, and a lot of costumes. It’s a huge work for the dancers and the orchestra,” Kamel stated.

The entire company, more than 60 dancers, will participate in the performance.

The production holds a special place in Kamel’s heart, having danced in this work at age 16. 

“It was a famed performance directed by Rudolf Nureyev [Soviet-born ballet dancer and choreographer], at the Scala Opera House in Milan, featuring the great prima donna Carla Fracci. At that time, I was a student at La Scala Academy.”

This production is engraved in La Scala’s history, marking the “golden years” of Italian opera, Kamel explained. 

She said that The Sleeping Beauty is ingrained in her memory.

"As a young ballerina, I participated in different productions of The Sleeping Beauty, dancing in many different roles."

"As if running in my blood, I now reconstruct The Sleeping Beauty with the Cairo Opera Ballet Company,” she added.

Throughout her long career, Kamel danced in many leading roles -- not including Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). With the Cairo company staging this masterpiece, Kamel will only relive the experience as the troupe’s artistic director.

Since its establishment at the Cairo Opera House in 1989, the Ballet Company has presented numerous works, mostly Egypt premieres of classical ballets.

"Due to the huge size of The Sleeping Beauty and its technical demands, we often opted for other productions. I wanted to premiere The Sleeping Beauty in February this year, but several components needed more work, so it was postponed until May.” 

The original ballet consists of a prologue and three acts, with the choreography by Marius Petipa. 

“I am keeping the original choreography. However, since it is a very long ballet, I made some trimmings and compacted some prolonged group dances which can be monotonous for our audience. Those changes do not take away from the story. I added small touches from my imagination, yet they are not very noticeable,” Kamel continued.

Greatest score

Some critics refer to The Sleeping Beauty as one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest symphonic scores, the composer's apotheosis, and an important turning point in the history of ballet music.

In this classical work, the dramatic development of the ballet is directly translated into music, making it what we call today a very cinematic score, in which the composer tailors the musical material to the events taking place on stage, painting the characters and their emotions. The approach to music motifs also changes as the characters develop, grow, or show different sides of their personalities.

Another brilliance of this work is portraying good and evil through music. For example, one of Tchaikovsky's score strategies is using the major versus minor keys -- often associated with happy and sad emotions, respectively -- when depicting specific characters or situations. 

In some instances, this can entail a fluid lyricism or cheerful melodies for the good qualities of a given character as opposed to distressing, chopped up, or more aggressive music for the evil. And since humans can carry both positive and negative qualities, this juxtaposition is clear in the composer's portrayal of many characters in the ballet.

In the Cairo performances, Ahmed Farag will conduct the Cairo Opera Orchestra on a journey through the colourful depth and contrasts of Tchaikovsky's music.


Cairo's production of The Sleeping Beauty has two casts. The first features the well-established soloists of the Cairo company: Anja Ahcin, as Princess Aurora, and Mamdouh Hassan, as Prince Desiré. The second cast presents Mariam Karapetyan and Otto Eltell, a young dancer from Sweden who has recently joined the company.

“There are a lot of soloists, Bluebird, Puss in Boots, the White Cat, all the fairies and princes, the cavaliers… All the dancers worked very hard to bring this ballet to life,” Kamel added.

The timeless allure of Sleeping Beauty continues to captivate audiences globally, affirming the enduring magic of artistic masterpieces and music.

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