The mirror images of Beauty reflected through the eyes of Ezio Frigerio

Watching a DVD filmed in 1999 of Rudolf Nureyev’s production of The Sleeping Beauty for the Paris Opera Ballet I was struck by the similarity of the set with the much more recent Sleeping Beauty production by Yuri Grigorovich that I saw just over a year ago at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

They both featured colossal green-tinged pillars placed in much the same position, the same metal gates upstage, and, beyond the gates, a Palladian circular temple with its own pillars.

In some scenes in the Paris production were two ornamental doors placed in the same location as two towering ornamental gates in the Bolshoi production.

Could this be a coincidence?

Nureyev’s Paris Opera Ballet production was first staged in 1989 with designs by Nicholas Georgiadis.

In January 1997 the production was restaged by the Paris Opera Ballet with new scenery by Ezio Frigerio and costumes by his wife, Franca Squarciapino.

It was filmed at the Opéra Bastille in 1999.

The Bolshoi Ballet’s production by Grigorovich that premiered in 2011 was also designed by Frigerio (sets) and Squarciapino (costumes).

And here’s another connection. Grigorovich also produced The Sleeping Beauty for the Polish National Ballet [Teatro Wielki Narodowy].

The premiere took place at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova in December 1996.

Once again, the scenery was by Frigerio and the costumes by Squarciapino.

The Polish premiere of this production was in Warsaw in January 1997, the same month as the premiere of the Paris production designed by Frigerio and Squarciapino.

Images of the Polish production show more similarities with the Paris and Bolshoi productions – the pillars, the two ornate doors, the metallic gates and beyond them an ornamental baroque obelisk with a fountain. (Scroll down to the bottom image on the left).

An online search for images of the Paris Opera production led me to two stage sets captioned ‘Production Designer Ezio Frigerio’ and ‘Set Designer, Alexander Beliaev’.

I wanted to know more about Beliaev.

The Linkedin profile for Alexander (‘Sasha’) Beliaev notes that he was “production designer at the National Opera of Paris from 1998 – 2001” and was a freelance set and production designer from 1992 to 2005.

Further checking brought up his own website with its collection of his artwork and designs.

I contacted Beliaev by email about the similarities in the various Sleeping Beauty designs.

He replied that the 2011 Bolshoi set was “an almost exact replica (except missing polychromy, ‘torti’, columns instead of straight ones) of the original Bastille set that I designed for him in 1996 [in Paris].

“At Mr Frigerio’s request I signed my work as ‘Set Designer’, listing him as ‘Production Designer’.

Beliaev, who now lives in Canada, wrote that he was credited as Frigerio’s ‘assistant’ on the Paris production as well as on the Teatro Wielki Narodowy production.

Frigerio, 82, has designed many sets for operas and ballets, including Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet and La Bayadere, but when it comes to Sleeping Beauty, it seems he has always stayed faithful to his original Italian renaissance vision of very tall pillars and very large doors with a central ornamental feature.

The clip is from the Paris Opera production.

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Bolshoi Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty, 2011

Bolshoi Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty, 2011

Paris Opera Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty, 1997

Paris Opera Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty, 1997

Paris Opera Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty, 1997

Paris Opera Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty, 1997

Polish National Ballet [Teatro Wielki Narodowy] production of Sleeping Beauty, 1996