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C I N D E R E L L A
choreography: Gerard Charles
additional staging: Robert Post
music: Alexander Glazunov arranged by Mikhail Popov
costume design: Lynn Holbrook
lighting design: David Grill
First production of Cinderella, Theater am Kärntnertor, Vienna, 1813
BalletMet premiere of Gerard Charles' Cinderella, September 26, 2002
These notes compiled by Gerard Charles, BalletMet, July 2002
Gerard Charles thoughts on this production of Cinderella
Alexander Glazunov's compositions used in Gerard Charles' Cinderella
Cinderella on the Stage
Prokofiev's Cinderella in Russia and Beyond
A Chronology of Cinderella Ballets
Gerard Charles thoughts on this production of Cinderella
I do not consider myself a choreographer, I would prefer to call myself an arranger of dances. I gather ideas, see what I like, change the order of things around and see what the result is. Ideas come to me from all sorts of places; watching other ballets, from the suggestions of the dancers, ice-skating, the X-games, people on the street, cartoons, musicals, and so on. Every so often a chance insight, an inadvertent move by a dancer or a flash of inspiration provides an unexpected solution to a choreographic problem. It is not the originality of the steps that is important, (I believe that everything the human body can do has already been done by someone, somewhere already) but it is the way the moves come together and create an effect that is important to me. Once the ballet is assembled I then tinker with it and seek sage advice. In the case of Cinderella, Robert Post has been a great collaborator, a creator of ideas and a finder of solutions. He conjures up wonderful characters from our dancers and helps focus the choreography to be both understandable and enjoyable.
Before beginning to choreograph Cinderella I looked at traditional and non-traditional versions of the ballet and noted the elements I enjoyed and those that I found to be missing. I then pieced together a synopsis of the ballet for BalletMet based on those thoughts.
Next I consulted with Lynn Holbrook on the costumes, which meant I had to come up with a cast of characters to be dressed. We decided to build new costumes for this ballet to achieve not only a good marriage between choreographic intent and costume designs but also for practical purposes. Often the expense of adjusting rental costumes to fit your dancers is quite great, but if we invested in constructing them we would then own them, both for our use and to rent them out to other companies.
Originally I had wanted to have the two stepsisters portrayed by men, as is tradition in the British pantomime that I grew up with. As my ideas came together, and as I had to deal with the number of dancers available to me within BalletMet, I was drawn to having the stepsisters danced by real women and the more menacing stepmother figure being played by a man. I also found the father figure to be an awkward character who should have been doing more to protect Cinderella, so I decided to dispose of him altogether and leave Cinderella a stronger girl, able to deal with her nightmare family alone. She did, however, need some friends to share her life with so after some thought, despite the Nutcracker precedent, I settled on four mice.
A scene that always bothered me in the traditional interpretations of the ballet was the obligatory dances for the four seasons. It was not the dancing but the fact that the seasons had nothing to do with the story that bothered me. Also the scene took Cinderella away from her house before the magical transition of the pumpkin into a carriage. I do have a dance for four fairies, but they are there to abet the fairy godmother.
I intended to follow balletic tradition by choreographing to Prokofiev's score for Cinderella, but the more I listened to it the more I realized that for every wonderful musical moment there were two or three ones that were awkward both choreographically and to the casual listener. My final decision was swayed by the fact that Prokofiev's music would cost over $10,000 to use for one weekend.
As is becoming a tradition at BalletMet, when there is a musical problem, I turned to Mikhail Popov for help. I asked if he knew anything of the Cinderella ballet that Tchaikovsky was rumored to have written, or perhaps he could come up with a compilation of Tchaikovsky's music. I already liked the Polonaise and Waltz from Eugene Onegin, but obviously there would need to be more than that for a full ballet. Mr. Popov immediately thought of Glazunov as a potential composer to consider for the project, but also suggested the existing score by Johann Strauss Jr., and that I listen to Mozart. I was shy of Glazunov as I knew that Stephen Mills had recently created a Cinderella to his music, so I listened to Mozart, whose music is wonderful but, to my mind, not enough would be good accompaniment to a Cinderella ballet. Trying to find a recording of the Strauss ballet proved to be very difficult, but within a couple of weeks Mr. Popov had compiled a ballet's worth of Glazunov's music that followed my story line. I am sure it was not the most positive response Mikhail could have hoped for when I suggested changing the placement of nearly every piece of music. However, after some weeks of deliberation I realized that most of what Mikhail had suggested made sense, and I was able to rework some of my concepts to fit the music. I believe the resulting score is much more pleasing than the traditional, and somewhat dark, Prokofiev ballet score.
One of the pivotal selections of music was Glazunov's Suite Characteristique. Although listed in many old catalogues the publishers in question no longer carried the parts. A new hunt was now afoot to find the obscure musical score. Finally David Frost, the Librarian of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, tracked the music down to the Fleisher Collection at the Philadelphia Free Library. I am very grateful to them for their assistance in the making our score possible.
Having settled on the music and the story, I now had to come up with the plotting of the choreography and the actual steps. I normally like to work from the beginning to the end of a ballet in sequence, but that was not to be. BalletMet's season began with Stanton Welch in residence for three weeks staging a new work, followed without break by Adam Hougland, Susan Hadley, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano and James Kudelka, all of whom were setting new works on the company. As if that were not enough we also had three public performances scheduled within the first five weeks of work. So I worked with whom I could get, when I could get them and let fate lead me for a while. As I write this, the elements are beginning to sort themselves out but, as when the continental plates come together, when two large chunks of choreography meet there has to be some adjustments made!
I chose to use children from the BalletMet Dance Academy in this production as I believe the opportunity to perform is a valuable part of their dance education was well as an enhancement to the ballet.
In Cinderella, I wanted to maintain the magic of a fairytale, combined with good dancing, an easily followed story line, humor and romance. I trust that by opening night the correct balance will have been achieved. I am sure that with every successive performance the artists of the company will add individual dimension and understanding to the work as it fully takes on a life of its own, breathing to Glazunov's very danceable music.
Gerard Charles - August 2002
The compositions of Alexander Glazunov arranged for use in Gerard Charles' Cinderella are as follows:
Suite Characteristique, Opus 9
The Seasons, Opus 67
Scenes de Ballet¸Opus 52
Symphony # 1 (2nd movement), Opus 5
Symphony # 5 (2nd movement), Opus 55
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It is morning. Cinderella is alone with her dreams in the kitchen. Before beginning her work to clean the house she looks at a portrait of her deceased mother and remembers happier times. Her Stepmother and two Stepsisters enter and demand their breakfast. Suddenly, an old woman enters, begging. Cinderella begins to bring her some food, but the Stepmother forbids it. Cinderella then offers the woman her own breakfast of a crust of bread, which the old woman accepts with gratitude and then departs. Cinderella's family is finding more chores for her when an emissary from the King arrives with an invitation. Unable to read the invitation themselves, the Stepsisters become excited when Cinderella reads that the family is invited to a ball in honor of the king's son. Without even considering Cinderella, the family rushes off to prepare for the ball. Cinderella's friends, the mice, appear and play with her. The family soon returns laden with boxes from a shopping trip. A tailor tries to assist the Stepsisters to select appropriate ball gowns. A Dancing Master also arrives, attempting the impossible task of coaching the Stepsisters in the fine art of dancing. The family departs for the Ball, leaving Cinderella alone and saddened. Her mouse friends try to cheer her and dress her for the ball. The old beggar woman returns and transforms into a beautiful fairy Godmother before Cinderella's eyes. Four other fairies join her, and Cinderella's rags become a beautiful gown. A pumpkin and some mice turn into a coach and footmen. The Fairy Godmother warns Cinderella that she must return home at midnight, as the magic gown will change back into rags and everything else will be as it was before. Finally she gives Cinderella a pair of glass slippers, and Cinderella is driven to the Ball like a princess.
Dandini, the Prince's best friend, greets guests for the Ball at the Palace. The King enters, welcomes the assembly, and introduces the Prince. All are somewhat amused by the late arrival of the Stepmother with her daughters. The Stepsisters attempt to get the Prince's attention but are interrupted by the arrival of Cinderella. This beautiful and unknown young woman captivates the Prince. All the men at the ball wish to dance with her but it is the Prince who wins Cinderella's heart. The ball proceeds until the clock strikes midnight. Cinderella in her joy has forgotten the Fairy Godmother's warning and at the last moment rushes from the court. In her haste she loses one of her slippers on the stairs. The Prince finds it and determines to somehow find the mysterious young woman whose dainty foot fits the glass slipper.
Cinderella has returned home and remembers the Ball as if it were a beautiful dream. She is brought back to reality by the return of her Stepmother and Stepsisters. Eventually the Prince arrives in search of the owner of the glass slipper. He is welcomed eagerly by the family, and the two Sisters try desperately to force their feet into the slipper, but to no avail. Finally the Stepmother demands to try on the shoe and manages to make it fit. True to his word, the Prince offers to marry the objectionable woman. In the commotion that follows, the Stepmother's deception is discovered the Prince is overjoyed to find his true love in Cinderella. The Prince and Cinderella are finally united and a grand wedding takes place at the palace. The fairies bless the event and the Prince and Cinderella live happily ever after.
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Like many folk tales, the origins of Cinderella can be traced back centuries and individual elements of the story can be found in almost every culture of the world. Told by bards and entertainers from the ancient world, the story has passed from culture to culture and age to age. With each transition it has been altered, embellished and reworked to make it more immediate to its audience. It is impossible to know the exact number of tales (some are replicas of each other, while others have changed so much they are barely recognizable), but it has been estimated there are at least 1,500 variations on the theme of Cinderella worldwide.
The earliest versions found in print are from China (where a tiny foot was considered a sign of a woman's beauty) of the ninth century.
The story centers on a girl called Yeh-hsien who makes friends with a fish. She feeds it and keeps it safe. One day, her wicked stepmother kills the fish and hides the bones. Yeh-hsien is very upset until a strange old man appears and tells her where to find the bones. He says that if she keeps them, the bones will grant her any wish she makes. Yeh-hsien wishes for lots of fine clothes and jewelry. even though she is wearing her new clothes to a ball, her stepmother and sister are able to recognize her. As she runs off, she loses one of her shoes. The prince of a nearby kingdom accquires the shoe and searches for the girl to which it belongs to. When he finds her, the prince makes Yeh-hsien his wife. The story then continues with the prince getting greedy and requesting too many riches from the fish bones so that they eventually stop producing them and he buries them near the seashore.
Allusions to the story of Cinderella that we know today can be found in a sermon delivered in Strasbourg in 1501 and in the Tale of a Young Girl Nicknamed Ass Hide of 1558.
In the latter a wealthy merchant retires to enjoy family life on a small farm. A neighbor makes a joke about his son marrying the merchant's youngest daughter, but the children hear of it and do indeed fall in love. The parents on both sides try to discourage the relationship by humiliating the children, but to no avail. The girl, named Pernette, is forced to pick up a bushel of barley, grain by grain, with her tongue and to wear nothing but the hide of an ass. Rather than be discouraged, she increases her ardor for the boy and gladly wears nothing but the hide; she picks up the grain with her tongue, while her cruel mother, siblings, and father watch to see that she does not cheat. Unbeknownst to them, little ants help her, and she soon fills the bushel. There is no stopping the marriage, and the gentleman's son cares for and loves Pernette, as she well deserves.
Large bodies of research have been compiled on the subject of Cinderella but it is generally agreed that there are three major written versions of the story.
The first European printing of a Cinderella story came in one of the first European collections of folktales. It was Giambattista Basile's Il Penatamerone published between 1624 and 1636. The book was divided into five sections of ten stories each with each section being one day's worth of story telling. The sixth story on the first day was titled The Cat Cinderella (when alone, Cinderella curls up by the cinders of the fire like a cat). The story is quite different in many respects from today's romantic fairy tale.
Cinderella, (in this case Zezolla) aids her governess in killing her stepmother so that the governess can marry her father and save Zezolla from her hated stepmother. All goes well until the governess promotes her hitherto hidden daughters at Zezolla's expense and she becomes little more than a scullery maid known as "Cat Cinderella". When her father has to go away on business he asks the daughters what presents they wish him to return with. They all demand fine things, except Zezolla who merely asks for him to commend her to the dove of the fairies. The fairies give him a fig tree to give to Zezolla. Zezolla finds that she is able to transform herself at will into a glamorous princess by reciting an incantation to a fig tree. It is thus she soon meets a king who is bewitched by her beauty. After twice eluding a servant sent to find out where she came from, she drops a decorative overshoe. The king sets out to find the owner of the shoe and once Zezolla is eventually revealed, he marries her.
The brothers Grimm' collections of folk tales contain a couple of stories with elements of the Cinderella we know today, and even their version of Cinderella (Aschenputtel - Ash Girl) evolved between the 1812 and 1856 editions.
Cinderella's father again marries a dominating woman with two daughters who banishes Cinderella to the role of housemaid. One day, when the father is going to the fair, the daughters request he return with luxury goods for them. Cinderella asks just for the first twig that brushes against him. In this case it is a hazel twig which she plants at her mother's grave. Her tears water the twig, causing it to grow quickly into a tree, on which a white bird lands. The bird begins to grant Cinderella her wishes.
The prince of the land holds a three-day feast to select a bride. Cinderella's stepmother says she might go to the feast if in two hours she can pick up a dish of lentils that she cast into the ashes. Cinderella calls for the assistance of the birds who help her achieve the chore in less than an hour. The stepmother then hurls two dishes of lentils into the fireplace and says she must sort them in less than an hour. Again the birds help her and all is done even quicker. Regardless of this accomplishment, the stepmother refuses to allow her to go to the feast and leaves with the two stepsisters. Cinderella goes to the hazel tree and cries and begs for assistance. The white bird clothes her in a gold and silver dress and she rushes off to the feast. She entrances the prince who wishes to escort her home, but she manages to sneak out at the last minute. The same thing happens the second night, but the third night the prince has the staircase coated with pitch to stop her exit. Her shoe is trapped but Cinderella is able to escape. When he arrives at Cinderella's house in search of ths shoe's owner, the stepsisters try the shoe on first. At her stepmother's instructions the first stepsister cuts off her toe to allow it to fit the shoe and the prince is convinced until he see the blood. The second stepsister cuts off some of her heal to accommodate her foot in the shoe. Again the Prince is convinced that this is the girl until he notices the blood. He demands that Cinderella try on the shoe despite the stepmother's protests. It of course, fits. The sisters attend Cinderella and the Prince's wedding where the pigeons peck their eyes out in reprisal for their treachery.
The most popular, though maybe not the most historically authentic, retelling of the story is that of Charles Perrault in his 1697 Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé.
Here Cinderella's widower father takes a second wife, a dominating woman with two daughters. She despises Cinderella's goodness, as it highlights her own daughters' weaknesses, so makes her a servent in her own kitchen. The Prince announces he is to give a ball for all the maidens of the kingdom. Cinderella helps her sisters prepare for the ball but is forbidden to attend herself. Her fairy godmother appears and transforms a pumpkin, mice, rats and lizards into footmen, a coach and horses for Cinderella. She gives her fine new clothes, but with the warning that she must leave the ball before midnight. Her arrival at the palace is enchanting and her effect on the prince decisive. She does however return home in time. The next evening she again goes to the ball but is late in departing this time, leaving behind the glass slipper in her haste. A servant is dispatched to find the owner of the shoe and Cinderella is allowed to try it on. When it fits, her godmother appears again and transforms her attire into suitable splendor and she is taken off to court to be with the Prince, who marries her. Her sisters fall at her feet and beg forgiveness. Cinderella forgives them and arranges for them to marry two lords of the court.
The North American Indian Cinderella legends form an interestingly coherent group. From tribes of different geographic regions, including the Algonquin and the Ojibwa, come stories about the Rough Faced Girl who is sorely mistreated by her two older sisters. Against all odds, she competes with them for the affections of a mighty invisible warrior and hunter, whose heart she wins with her kindness and honesty.
One of the most unusual versions of the story is the Irish tale, The Bracket Bull, in which the Cinderella character is actually a boy - this may be due to Ireland's traditionally matriarchal society. Rather than a fairy godmother, it is a bull, which grants his wishes so that he may go to the feast. In this story a princess sets out to find the handsome young man who dropped his shoe as he ran away. Many men try to persuade her that they are the one she is looking for, but in the end she finds the boy of her dreams and they live happily ever after.
The most popular Russian version of the tale is known as Vasilisa and Baba-Yaga, which incorporates the popular Baba-Yaga character. Baba-Yaga isa hideous old crone who lives in the forest in a hut supported on a chicken's leg, and gets about in a mortar, which she paddles with a pestle. She strikes fear in the hearts of all who are unfortunate enough to encounter her.
In this story, Vasilisa is the daughter of a merchant. Her mother dies when she is only eight years old and her father remarries a widow with two daughters about the same age as Vasilisa. The stepmother and her daughters persecute Vasilisa more and more, and it is only with the help of a little doll that Vasilisa manages to survive her torment. One night her step-family seek to get rid of her altogether by sending the girl to Baba-Yaga's hut. Vasilisa witnesses all sorts of amazing and frightening scenes in the hut and is given increasingly impossible tasks to perform. It is only when she proves how resourceful she is, with the help of the magical little doll, that Baba-Yaga agrees to release Vasilisa. Now completely alone, her stepsisters dead, and her father far away, Vasilisa must now live by weaving cloth, some of which is sent to the Tsar as a present. The Tsar becomes intrigued with the girl who made the cloth and when he finally meets her, he is amazed by her beauty and asks her to be his wife.
The story incorporates many details of the landscape and the changing seasons and may have influenced the inclusion of the seasons section in Prokofiev's ballet score. It is significant, however, that the Prokofiev ballet was based on the European version of the story rather than a specifically Russian one, indicating that the Perrault version was probably better known in the artistic circles than any of the indigenous folk tales.
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Cinderella on the Stage
From her humble beginnings, Cinderella has made herself equally at home in literature, ballet, opera, art, movies, television and coloring books. In France she is Cendrillon, in Italy Cenerentola, in Germany Aschenbrödel, and in Russia Zolushka. Cinderella has been performed as pantomimes, operas, ballets, feriées and musicals, which in turn have inspired film and television versions. Although with a shorter history than the fairy tale, there have been as many adaptations of Cinderella on stage as in literature.
Cinderella, it is claimed, is the most frequently staged pantomime (a uniquely British form of entertainment usually presented at Christmastime) and it is significant that ballet and feriées sprang from the same source as pantomime particularly in their development in Britain. 1804 is the date usually acknowledged for the first pantomime version of Cinderella when it was presented on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Operas and Ballets
No sooner had the pantomime Cinderella made her debut on the London stage than her operatic counterpart appeared in Paris where Nicòlo Isouard's Cendrillon became popular at the Opéra Comique, seven years later Gioacchino Rossini's influential La Cenerentola premiered in Rome. Rossini had little interest in the fairy-elements of the story and focused on the comic stepfamily and the creation of Dandini as the Princes friend, while Cenerentola, herself, was a somewhat sentimental figure. Rossini's production is based on Italian sources of the tale of Zezollo.
There were operatic versions of Cinderella such as Ferdinand Langer's Aschenbrödel at Mannheim in 1878, derived from the darker Aschenputtel by the Brothers Grimm. However, rather than using the Grimm ending, where the sisters mutilated their feet and were blinded, this opera reverted to Cinderella's reconciliation with the sisters as in Perrault. Other notable opera-versions include Jules Massenet's 1899 Cendrillon for the Paris Opéra (with its fantasy meeting for Cinderella and her Prince after the Ball) and Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's La Cenerentola, first performed in Venice in 1900.
Both pantomimes and operas influenced ballet productions. The first Cinderella ballet listed in reference works was choreographed by the virtuoso dancer, Louis Duport, in Vienna, in 1813. Considerably more influential was the Cendrillon, with music by Catalan guitarist Fernando Sor, and choreography by François Decombe Albert. It is the first known ballet based on Perrault's tale. It premiered at the Kings Theatre, London in 1822, and starred Maria Mercandotti, the "Andalusian Venus." It was staged the following year in Paris with the great pre-Romantic ballerina, Emilie Bigottini, assuming the title role. Cendrillon received 111 performances and remained in the repertory in Paris until 1831. In 1827 the great Romantic ballerina Marie Taglioni made one of her earliest appearances at the Paris Opera in Albert's Cinderella. Although Perrault was the acknowledged source for the production, the characters' names were those adopted by Rossini.
In light of the strong influence today of the Russian ballet and Prokofiev's score on the West it is interesting to note that this early French version opened the new Bolshoi Petrovsky Theatre in Moscow in January 1825, with the composer's wife, the French danseuse Flicit Hulin-Sor, in the title role.
Cinderella From Russia to Europe
There were many notable ballet productions of Cinderella in Russia before Prokofiev wrote his score. In 1871 Vaclav Reisinger, (mostly known today as the first choreographer of Swan Lake), created Cinderella or The Crystal Slipper in Moscow to music by Gerber. Two decades later, in 1893, Marius Petipa, Enrico Cecchetti and Lev Ivanov pooled their talents for a Cinderella in St. Petersburg. The production was noted for its demonstration of dancers' technical virtuosity, although the score by Baron Fittingov-Schell was not up to the standards audiences were beginning to expect and the costumes were heavy and awkward. In Cinderella, the ballerina Pierina Legnani introduced to Russia the 32 fouettés she had previously shown in Aladdin in London, and which would become famous in the Petipa-Ivanov Swan Lake. Legnani was only one of several Italian ballerinas at the end of the century performing these multiple turns but the one with whom they will always be associated.
Cinderella ballets also were produced elsewhere in Europe. The 1901 Berlin production by Graeb was noted for its score by Johann Strauss, and was his first and only ballet score. Joseph Hassreiter used the music in Vienna in 1908 and Robert de Warren used it for second Cinderella in 1979. It is interesting to note that of the three very different productions at Northern Ballet, none was set to Prokofiev's music.
In France the Cinderella story became a mainstay of spectacular féeries in which dance and magical effects played an important part. It was seen at the Châtelet in Paris and it was this style of production that influenced the first films of the story. George Méliès made two fantasy films of the fairy tale, the first in 1899, rich in images of the passing of time and pretty girls posing with clocks. It is notable as one of the first multi-reel narratives. Previously films showed a single incident on one reel.
In Britain Cinderella was most frequently performed as a pantomime, usually seen at Christmas. Many of these pantomimes, particularly at leading London theatres, included significant ballets. There was an important ballet production at the Empire Theatre, in 1906, with Adeline Genée in the title role. Most of the choreography was by Fred Farren, who also played the role of the stepmother. The production was in five scenes and ran less than an hour, ending with the ball. It was memorable for its designs in the style of the painter Watteau, as well as for Genée's dancing.
The 1930s saw two significant Cinderellas created in London. In 1935, for the Ballet Club, Andrée Howard choreographed a charming miniature version to a selection of music by Carl Maria von Weber. Pearl Argyle danced as Cinderella while her Prince was Frederick Ashton. (Ashton acknowledged the influence of Howard's ballet when he came to choreograph his own in 1948.) The second Cinderella, set to an original score by Baron Frederic d'Erlanger, was choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. The one act work premiered at the Royal Opera House on July 19, 1938, and the cast included the sisters en travestie (Men dressed as women).
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Prokofiev's Cinderella in Russia and Beyond
As early as 1870, the Bolshoi in Moscow had suggested to Tchaikovsky that Cinderella would be an ideal subject for a ballet, but the plans for the piece were never carried out. Later, the composer Asafyev, a great friend of Prokofiev, also planned a Cinderella but it similarly never materialized.
Since Prokofiev wrote his score, ballets of Cinderella have most frequently, though not exclusively, been set to his music. Prokofiev began work on his ballet score in 1940 but due to World War II he did not finish the orchestrations until 1944. Prokofiev wrote that he conceived of Cinderella "as a classical ballet with variations, adagios, pas de deux, etc. I see Cinderella not only as a fairy-tale character but also as a real person who thinks, moves, suffers, and rejoices like one of ourselves." His score is vigorous, ironic and includes passages from his other compositions.
Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet, written for the Kirov Theatre proved to be enormously popular and the management lost no time in commissioning a new full-length ballet from Prokofiev. The great Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova recalls in her memoirs a cold winter evening in 1940: "Not long after the opening of Romeo and Juliet, Radin, the director of the Kirov Theatre, wishing to cement our ballet's good relations with Prokofiev, asked him to write something else for us. One evening he brought Prokofiev with him to my room in the Moskva Hotel. They asked me what part I would like to dance. "The Snow Maiden," I replied. "Oh, but Rimsky Korsakov has written such a splendid Snow Maiden that I wouldn't dare to tackle that theme," said Prokofiev. "But perhaps we could try Cinderella?" He told us why he had not believed in ballet before Romeo and Juliet, but how his attitude had changed completely and he wanted to write rich, full-blooded music for a new ballet."
Prokofiev immediately began work on Cinderella at his country house in Kratov, but the fairy-tale world of Cinderella quickly evaporated with the brutalities of the German bombardment of Russia. Happy ballet music was no longer a particularly desirable commodity in Russia, and like most Soviet composers, Prokofiev turned to writing songs and marches for the Red Army and weightier orchestral works. As Prokofiev put it, "music that could resonate directly at the front." His major project during the war became the opera of Tolstoy's epic story of Russians resisting Napoleon's invasion, War and Peace.
During the war years, the music of Cinderella made various appearances in orchestral suites and was re-arranged as pieces for the piano, but it was not until 1944 that Prokofiev hastily began to orchestrate the complete score for the first performance. The premiere was now to be given at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, largely because Ulanova (who had been Prokofiev's original Juliet) was now dancing for the Bolshoi company. Ulanova, who was the first Cinderella, recalls that the whole company "fell in love" with Cinderella from the outset.
Shostakovich, reviewing the Bolshoi premiere in Pravda declared that "with this work the art of the ballet has taken a great step forward. . . It is an outstanding work, worthy of the glorious tradition of Russian ballet".
Since the popularization of Sergei Prokofiev's 1945 score Cinderella has been added to the elite selection of classics which virtually every ballet company performs.
Frederick Ashton's Cinderella was the first full-length English classical ballet and he was the first to use Prokofiev's score in the West. Ashton added more humor and made his ballet structurally more like a traditional classical ballet with the inclusion of divertissements. Ashton was influenced by Andrée Howard's version of Cinderella in which he had danced the Prince. Many think he used men en travestie as the two ugly sisters on account of the British pantomime heritage, but the idea was actually derived from Fokine's 1938 production. Ashton edited out the Prince's round-the-world search for Cinderella, and the grasshopper and dragonfly dance in the season's section. Ashton also cut the national dances that indicate the Prince's search for Cinderella and he omitted the stepmother found in the Russian versions.
The success of Ashton's Cinderella ensured that Cinderella, previously destined for obscurity, would not be dropped from the popular repertoire. Even the Russians, who had so struggled with it, were moved to re-stage it, giving it their all with a new production for the Bolshoi Ballet that was filmed in 1961 with Raisa Struchkova in the title role
Ben Stevenson's version of Cinderella is probably the most well- known in the United States. Originally created for the National Ballet of Washington in 1970, it has been restaged for over twenty other companies around the world. BalletMet presented Mr. Stevenson's Cinderella in 1991 and 1993 with lavish sets and costumes that had been newly-designed by David Walker in 1989 for the Houston Ballet. The choreographer was influenced by Ashton but has made the work his own. He revised the structure of the ballet and its music and used thematic choreographic material throughout the work.
For the Scottish Ballet, Peter Darrell turned to Rossini's opera of Cinderella for the score, which has more the tempo of a comic opera than a classical fairytale. The Prince gets a name, Ramiro, and a best friend, Dandini. The Prince is fed up and for a masquerade ball swaps costumes with Dandini so that guests do not fawn over him because of his roayl stature. There is no fairy godmother; instead a Statue Fairy works the magic.
In her successful 1985 production, French choreographer Maguy Marin created an avant-garde, bleak, expressionist production. "A vision of lost childhood, of innocence seen from a distance"--Anna Kisselgoff (New York Times). All the dancers wear masks and lumpish padding, turning them into life-size dolls in a three-story dollhouse set. Composer Jean Schwarz splices a baby gurgling and other nursery sounds into the Prokofiev soundtrack. The ballet has toured widely. The first performance was in Lyon, the 100th in New York, and the 200th in Beijing.
Nureyev's 1987 interpretation of Perrault's tale was created for the Paris Opera Ballet, with Sylvie Guillem as Cinderella. Nureyev chose to set his ballet in Hollywood at the beginning of the 1930s, the sisters are wannabe starlets with a stage mother from hell, the prize a starring role in a movie. Nureyev takes the opportunity to present many legendary film characters on stage before Cinderella's entrance to the studios as a suitably attired screen goddess. She attracts the attention of all, particularly the reigning male film star. As midnight strikes Cinderella runs out, but leaves behind her shoe as a means for the film star to later identify her. Eventually Cinderella is found and the Producer signs her to a contract that makes her a queen of the screen and partner to the film star. Despite this deviation from the standard versions of the ballet, Nureyev strictly adhered to the music as written by Prokofiev.
Matthew Bourne in his 1997 Prokofieff's Cinderella for his company Adventures in Motion Pictures changes the plot considerably, while maintaining the basic storyline. The production is set in the London Blitz. Cinderella lives with her wheelchair-bound father, horrific stepmother and her five children. Into her life comes an injured and shell-shocked pilot, who is driven out of the house by the stepmother barely after he arrives. The lonely Cinderella pins all her romantic hopes on the pilot. As is tradition, the family is invited to a party, but Cinderella is excluded. While she is alone an angel appears and provides her with a white Harley Davidson complete with a sidecar to take her to the dance. She is led into a strange world, half urban blitz, and half safe fantasy. Act I concludes with Cinderella inside the house as it is bombed. Act II is Cinderella's fantasy of the party the others are attending, where a dashing trio of war heroes wow the clientele of a bombed-out ballroom. Cinderella makes a movie-star entrance down a flight of stairs and she is a hit with them all, especially the Pilot, much to the chagrin of her stepmother. At midnight, after another bombing hits the dance hall, Cinderella wanders the streets of London and then is wounded herself. We see the Pilot's desperate search for Cinderella through the streets of London. In an Underground station, he briefly contemplates abandoning his search, tempted by the proximity of a prostitute, but he moves on. She and the Pilot get together again in a convalescent home, where her stepmother tries to suffocate her with a pillow, forgoing the fairytale for reality. The pilot pulls out a pair of spectacles to examine Cinderella. She is not the glamorous femme fatale she had conjured up in her imagination, just a dowdy young woman. Their first kiss is clumsy and realistic. In the final scene they are reunited and depart through gate 12 of the train station, with the blessing of the Angel. The scene suggests that their ultimate destination is quiet suburbia, not a fairytale palace.
On March 31, 1957, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, a made-for-TV movie, aired for the first time on CBS. The live telecast, starring the new Broadway sensation Julie Andrews, pulled in an astounding audience of over 107 million viewers and sent critics scrambling for superlatives. In 1965 the musical was remade for television, this time starring Lesley Ann Warren. In 1997, Cinderella returned to television as a dazzling spectacular on The Wonderful World of Disney. The cast included superstar Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, pop sensation Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander and Paolo Montalban.
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A Chronology of Cinderella Ballets
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The following are some excellent web based resources for Cinderella from the University of Rochester Libraries. All sub directories are available from the first link on the list.
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