Thursday, May 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky!

Today is Peter Tchaikovsky's 169th birthday. He is my all-time favorite classical composer, due in large part to Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty, which took much of its score from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Ballet.

Sleeping Beauty the movie introduced me to classical music and to ballet as well as to the fact that the film often takes liberties with the book (in the original story, there were 13 fairies, not 4). (Yes, Maleficent is a fairy. An evil one, to be sure, but a fairy, not a witch.)

Walt Disney also featured a short biography of Tchaikovsky on his television program around that time.

I did finally get to see a live production of the ballet, performed by the San Francisco Ballet Company, about 19 years ago. In the first half of the ballet, the company wears Russian-style clothes. Once Aurora is awoken, after 100 years, the costumes are Western European, to symbolize Russia moving from isolation to joining the Western world. I wonder what Peter would have thought of this interpretation?

You never know what's going to spark a child's interest. I was very lucky to have parents who encouraged us to "follow our fancy" wherever it led us. (And it has led to some pretty interesting places!) Because I was so taken with Sleeping Beauty the movie, my parents bought me an album of suites from the Sleeping Beauty. I near wore it out and kept it until it got irreparable warped when our garage flooded--some 30 years later.

I've since branched out in taste. But Peter has--and always will have--a special place in my heart.

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)