David Bintley's CinderellaBirmingham Royal Ballet
Posted 02 February 2011 - 02:51 PM
Posted 03 February 2011 - 08:55 AM
This is the production that was filmed by the BBC and shown on terrestrial television in the UK on Christmas Day. I thought it was a very good recording although they never come over as well as sitting in a packed audience in a theare and watching it live.
From the running time it looks as though they have cut out the fillers between acts. I hope they would be included in the special features as they were very interesting.
Posted 03 February 2011 - 04:58 PM
Posted 27 December 2011 - 10:32 PM
The primary set, the kitchen with its big hearth and a big set of stairs stage right, was a bit overwhelming, and cut the depth of the set. This may have been my impression from the filming, but it seemed that Bintley made the conscious choice to have a lot of side-to-side solo choreography upstage and little using the depth. When the Fairy Godmother revealed herself, the hearth was turned to show a multi-story mirror, which cut into the stage space where the Seasons and the stars (corps) danced. The carriage, which looked liked it was made from icicles, was wheeled in almost flat, and then the front and back were pushed up to create the carriage itself, which was a magical effect. The coup de grace was the end of Act II, where the giant inner workings of a clock loomed during Prokofiev's clanging, industrial music, and choreographer Bintley had the corps and Seasons, who were omnipresent at the Ball in gorgeous jewel-toned tutus, perform mechanical movements to reflect the passage of time and the machines overpowering forward thrust, which worked a lot better than I've been able to describe it.
The prologue was a very short scene, with the young Cinderella at her mother's grave, comforted by her father, who was then swept away by the Wicked Stepmother, or as her deft portrayer, Marion Tait, described her, the Stone Flower. The stepsisters were played by women, and were Skinny and Chunky, with Chunky swadled in fake fat. I was disappointed that Bintley didn't make Chunky the graceful one, but Chunky was food-obsessed and Skinny was boy-crazy. Shown as bumpkins, their clothes, despite the snobby and bewigged dressmaker, weren't remotely like the other guests' -- Skinny wore an anachronistic black tutu with cone cups, black and white horizontal striped tights, and black toe shoes while Chunky wore a pale bodice with a very short tulle yellow tutu, perhaps the only tutu I've seen that could be properly described as a schmattah -- and in light of the Act I business with the dressmaker, wig maker, and dancing master presenting their bills in Act I, the Stepmother should refuse to pay. (Their everyday clothes were much nicer.) It wasn't that surprising when Skinny hit on the servants for love and Chunky hit on the servants for food and drink. (She also stole as many oranges as she could during the "Pass the Orange" dance.) The Stepsisters had a lot of dancing, and kudos to Carole-Anne Millar for the way she handled the fat suit, especially in a series of perfect pirouettes.
There were some lovely touches to the story: Cinderella had a red velvet box of treasures, a portrait of her mother that Cruella de Ville stomped on, and a pair of bejeweled slippers. When the Fairy Godmother first appeared disguised as an old, destitute lady, after Cinderella fed her, she noticed that the old woman was barefoot. She thought about putting the box with slippers away, but then offered them to the old lady. I wasn't sure if the Fairy Godmother, when she appeared transformed, was trying to show Cinderella that she changed them into heeled shoes, but they appeared as toe shoes in Act III. They were, theoretically, part of her Act II costume -- I thought her toe shoes were plain -- and after the Ball, she put the single slipper she had left into her red box, which the Stepsisters almost found while tormenting her relentlessly before the search party arrived, and she revealed to the Prince after the slipper he brought fit. She did a few bourrees in them, but then she returned them to the Fairy Godmother before doing a barefoot pas de deux with the Prince. (The final pas de deux, in pointe shoes, was performed after a costume change while the stars returned.)
There was another lovely moment, when, alone together after their Act III reconciliation, the Prince was upset that Cinderella had been reduced to rags, presumably because this means she has been treated badly, and she bourreed up behind him and put her arms around him, as if to say, "Don't waste any energy on that: I'm with you now."
"Cinderella" was chock full of classical choreography in the plainly elegant mold. For me the highlight was the Spring variation, which oozed steps, followed by the Winter variation. The "helpers" in the Seasons were three adult lizzards and two children dressed as mice, who made an appearance with human heads but also their tails in the ballroom scene. I couldn't tell if Bintley was dull as a corps choreographer in the big set corps pieces, but it looked that way on film. All three big pas de deux for Cinderella and the Prince were challenging. Elissa Willis, who danced Cinderella, had extensive choreography in bare feet, and with her high arches and beautiful articulation made it look almost as if she were on point. There was a giant lift, the one Bintley called their "Bolshoi" lift, in which Mackay lifted Willis and then held her by one foot (and ankle?) as she cantilevered over him, and it was pretty spectacular. Backstage, she said she was first afraid that she would fall, since she was so high over the stage, but that Mackay would never drop her.
Vancity Theatre is a small one, and even though I was in the back row, it was closer than I would normally choose to sit. There were quick cuts from distance to close-ups, and they made me a bit dizzy until the camera settled down. It might be easier to watch in DVD form, but I was glad to see most of it on the full screen.
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