Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote his ballet, “Cinderella,”
between 1940 and 1944. It was premiered at the Bolshoi
Theatre in 1945. While not as well known musically as his
earlier ballet, “Romeo and Juliette,” it is a marvelous score,
which has become famous in concert form, as well as through
performances of the composer’s own various piano
The production was taken from a 1969 television broadcast,
and requires some explanation. This version was
choreographed by Frederick Ashton. Act III of the ballet has
been cut considerably, and the entire piece has been
somewhat “retooled” as a comedy. Apparently, Ashton
choreographed this version in 1948, and this particular
production was also performed during 1965, featuring
Dame Margot Fonteyn in the title role. If I’d known of this in
advance, I might not have watched this DVD, because I don’t
like to watch or hear these types of works in “truncated”
forms. Oh well!
This program was taken from a 1969 television broadcast,
and dubbed “an acclaimed historic performance.” Therefore,
adjustments need to be made by the viewer/listener, vis-à-vis
the video and audio qualities. This DVD was transferred from a
VHS tape with mono sound. The picture quality and visual images
do not reflect modern, “state of the art,” shooting techniques.
The camera work utilized typical frames of reference from that
era, with predominantly wide-angle shots and fewer close-ups.
I must admit that I haven’t seen many ballets, and will therefore
reserve most of my opinions of the production. However,
I did note the nice, “traditional” scenery and costumes, by
Henry Bardon and David Walker respectively. Given his “retooling”
of the work, I guess that Ashton’s choreography was fine. One thing
that I didn’t like was his casting of Cinderella’s ugly step sisters as
men in drag, including himself. The other “sister” was portrayed by
Robert Helpmann. Both of the sisters’ dance steps were
appropriately clumsy and awkward. Although this version of
the ballet was supposed to be comedic, this weird bit of
casting just did not work for me.
I believe the standout performer was Antoinette Sibley in the
title role, who was the very picture of grace. Her dancing “on point”
was a marvel to behold. Anthony Dowell was a fine Prince, and
Georgina Parkinson was a very effective Fairy Godmother. The rest
of the cast appeared to do a fine job, and the Royal Opera House
Orchestra conducted by John Lanchbery, provided good support,
notwithstanding some minor intonation problems in the upper strings.
This DVD was taken from an actual live performance, and frequent
pauses were therefore necessary, to accommodate the applause
from the capacity audience. Even with these modifications, the
performance only lasted about 98 minutes.
As long as you keep in mind the aforementioned date, conditions
and circumstances of this production, I suppose that “Cinderella”
is worth watching, particularly for “balletophiles.” Personally, I would
prefer to see an up-to-date, modern production or even a more
“traditional” older one, with all of Prokofiev’s music intact! This
DVD was released during 2001, under the Kultur label.