|The Fairy of the Woodland Glades|
Oliver Messel, 1946
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The 1946 production of “The Sleeping Beauty” at The Sadler's Wells (now Royal) Ballet is considered the greatest triumph of Britain’s leading theatre designer of the mid-Twentieth Century, Oiliver Messel (1904-1978).
Messel created a feeling of a “real” world for the fantastical production. Instead of focusing on the fairytale elements, Messel depended on visual themes based on the architecture and fashions of Seventeenth to Eighteenth Century English, Spanish and French styles. The clever overall look was one of stepping back in time, but not so otherworldly that the character and action seemed false.
In the production, the good fairies arrive to visit Princess Aurora on the day of her christening. They present her with a variety of gifts. Notable, the character of “The Fairy of the Woodland Glades” offers the little princess the gift of “generosity.”
Here is Messel’s proposed costume for “The Fairy of the Woodland Glades.” This design features a train. We know from photographs of the performance that this is not the costume which was created for the show. Obviously, the design was later rejected. It is noted that Messel decided against this design since he had initially wished for all seven fairies to wear costumes with long trains. The extra fabric proved cumbersome and filled the stage so that the dancers’ movements were hindered.
Still, it’s interesting to see how the production design developed over time.