"Cinderella" at the matinee
Coming to the Saturday matinee of "Cinderella" still bathed in the glow from the exceptional first-night performance, one inevitably experienced a certain degree of letdown. The theater was far less well filled, and the audience was not dominated by the intensely devoted and knowledgeable balletomanes who were out in force on Friday evening. The glamour quotient of having Anthony Dowell and Wayne Sleep as the stepsisters was also absent, and the incredibly high standard set by the opening cast—particularly by the technical refinement, ease and grace with which Alina Cojocaru performed the title role—made disappointment almost inevitable.
But if the performance never rose to the same heights, it did offer a good opportunity to evaluate the beauty and mastery of Ashton's ballet as a whole. For someone like myself, whose most recent "Cinderella" experiences had been the incredibly wan and tedious Ben Stevenson production that ABT performs, the wonders that Ashton has wrought from the tale are numerous. There is the delightful balance he maintains between the comic ungainliness and often music hall-style capers of the stepsisters, who get an extensive chunk of stage time to themselves right at the start of act one, before the heroine has a chance to register—and the shimmering, pure world of Cinderella and her entourage of fairies and stars along with (later) the prince. Prokofiev helps Ashton, of course, providing sections of the score that have a dark, bitter flavor, often with an undertone of turbulence, as well as lyrical, richly harmonious contrasting sections