Theater set design is by nature ephemeral, rarely exerting an influence beyond the end of a show's run. Not so the fabled British designer Oliver Messel's scheme for the Royal Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty, first staged in London in 1946.
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When it opened in New York City in 1949, wrote the legendary ballerina Margot Fonteyn, "Applause greeted the set before anyone danced a step." (Though five other designers of The Sleeping Beauty have been subsequently commissioned, Messel's was a fairy-tale setting the Royal reckoned had never been bettered: to mark its 75th anniversary, the company has re-created the set...