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#7 - Compare other Cinderellas to Ashton's

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(7) For those who have seen other versions of Cinderella, compare them to Ashton's.

I know this topic has be dead for a while, but here goes. Besides Ashton's I've seen:

-the Strukhova video with the Bolshoi (a very young Maximova is 'Spring' in this one :D:D ).

-the East Berlin Comic Ballet video (Tom Shilling's choreography) - Tai Chi is performed in the waltz instead of choreography for Cinderella and the Prince :wacko: .

-San Francisco Ballet's production (an old PBS Great Performances broadcast).

-ABT's -- Baryshnikov's version with giant cat, and the one with D. Walker's designs. Both productions were okay but not as good as Ashton's.

-Paris Opera Ballet (Nureyev's production): Sylvie Guillem as Charlie Chaplin and the Parisians go Hollywood. OK concept but it didn't work for me.

Live performances? Perm Ballet (Vinogradov's production). The issue I have

with this production is that the end of Act 1 looks dangerously similar to "Giselle" Act 2 when the Fairy Godmother appears and works her magic - (choreographic plaigarism)? I tried the Paris production live too; looked much better on video IMO.

Ashton's production is great and has a wealth of wonderful original choreography, but the sisters are too much pantomime for me. I think the original Bolshoi

production (Zakharov's), although very Soviet and very pedestrian, is in concept and execution, the best IMO. I especially love how the coda in Act 2 is done. I wish Ashton would have included the prince's journey and search for Cinderella, and not just finding her 'in the morning.' To me that always seemed too easy an ending with no obstacles for the two to overcome.

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I admit, there's something about Ashton's Cinderella (as seen on DVD anyway) that I always resist. I *think* I prefer the point of view the Soviets took on this, I also really dislike that Ashton cut the around the world divertissement (which seemed like such a great Petipa hommage to his silly arbitrary, and great, divertissements). I mean the ballet *isn't*, by classical (or Romeo and Juliet) standards all that long even if you use every bit of Prokofiev's score.

I know Ashton did want it to be a Petipa hommage but I think he missed the boat and I don't like the English Pantomime stepsisters (yes Petipa's ballet had some great men as women roles--Carabosse being the most famous--but this comes from a different tradition altogether). Prokofiev dedicated his score to Tchaikovsky and, while it is much more dissonant, and angular than what we'd ever get from Pyotr, I really hear a lot of Sleeping Beauty in it. Sleeping Beauty reflected through a dark, cracked mirror 50 years later, anyway ;) I think it's one of Prokofiev's finest works, even over Romeo and Juliet (it's funny the score divides peopel so sharply--ballet goers seem to be even more divided on it than they are on Glazunov's Raymonda another score I adore but lots of people don't seem to get and find tuneless).

I wish we had a good document of the Bolshoi's production on stage, or even an ok document of the Kirov's (we sorta do) though the film, as cheesy as it is, has a lot to recommend it. It's a little disappointing to me that neither the Kirov nor the Bolshoi has a traditional, grand, Cinderella in their repertoire anymore, though I've heard positive and negative things about both of their current productions. I guess the original Bolshoi Cinderella was never quite the certified classic that Leonid Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet has been (I know many will disagree with me but I hope the Kirov never loses their production of that). (Oddly the Bolshoi doesn't seem to have Lavrosky's NOR Grigorovich's, nor indeed any production of Romeo and Juliet, which I so associate with them, in their current repertoire!)

My first exposure to this ballet was when I was 11 or 12 and first getting really into ballet and the Kiev ballet came to our little city with their production. I really can't from an adult perspective say if the production (very traditional in the Soviet style) was any good but at the time I thought it was the best thing I'd ever seen live, and immediately went out and bought the CD of the score (I was surprised, and still am, at how few good full recordings of the score exist).

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(7) For those who have seen other versions of Cinderella, compare them to Ashton's.

-The Paris Opera Ballet video starring Sylvie Guillem and Charles Jude in Nureyev's production is the Cinderella I've grown up with. I love its modern setting, challenging choreography, and Guillem who is excellent in the title role.

-While Ashton's Cinderella is a lovely traditional production, and Antoinette Sibley absolutely sparkles in the video (a pity more of her partnership with Dowell was not filmed), I'm never drawn in by it. The pantomime stepsisters are too much for my taste. I don't understand why Cinderella is a servant when there is no ruling-with-an-iron-fist stepmother. And I miss the Prince searching the world for the glass slipper's owner.

-The Bolshoi version with Raisa Struchkova and Gennadi Lediakh captures the mood of Prokofiev's dark score well with its lighting, special effects, creepy gnomes announcing the hours, and very spiteful stepmother and stepsisters. While a bit dated, it is charming.

-Vasiliev's production performed by the Kremlin Ballet has the magic and warmth I found lacking in Ashton's. Ekaterina Maximova and Andris Liepa not only are beautiful dancers, but give well-drawn interpretations of Cinderella and the Prince.

-The only live Cinderella I've seen is the Bolshoi Ballet in Yuri Posokhov's version with Svetlana Zakharova. I think because I have seen and loved Nureyev's production for years and years, I found this one marvelous. I liked the concept with the Storyteller having a hand in moving the story along, set in a sort of surreal world. The choreography was wonderful for the most part. Sergei Filin as the Prince was the highlight of the performance.

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Rosa, in a few words you encapsulated for me what I find missing in Ashton's version. I also always found it odd that he says he dropped the Prince's trip around the world for time (when the ballet is very short, for a three act work) and cause he didn't like the music, when I find it some of the best music in the score! Oh well...

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I agree with others regarding Ashton's version of Cinderella. The presentation of the two ugly stepsisters as performed by Ashton and MacMillian in the 1957 version with Margot Fonteyn and again by Ashton and Helpman in the 1969 version with Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell were so exaggerated and over the top as far as the make-up, costuming, and mine for the two sisters that it sorely detracted from the presentations of the ballets. Indeed, it always seemed more as if Ashton was using his interpretation of the ballet as a vehicle to get some stage time for himself as opposed to honoring Prokofiev.

The Russian variations with Raisa Struchkova and Gabriella Komleva and the Berlin Comic Opera's variation with Hannelore Bey where the sister's roles are danced by women and where it is their personalties that are ugly and not their faces - make the story far more plausible and follows the fairy tale's story line much more closely. The version with Komleva includes a lot more solo time for the sisters at the ball, unfortunately in this version the Russian Directors were enamored with inserting artistic borders around the perimeter of a lot of segments of the film footage which really detracts from viewing the dancing, particularly as these where filmed in the 4:3 screen format. One other element that makes both the Komleva and the Bey versions less plausible is the fact that both these dancers appear too aged for the role.

The more modern versions such as Cinderella by Nureyev, Aschenbrodel by the Vienna Ballet (to Johann Strauss's music), and even the doll variation by Lyon Opera (despite the periodic and very annoying insertion of crying baby sounds) are all very good too. However, I confess that I still prefer the Russian storyline, so of all the versions available on DVD, my favorite is the version with Raisa Struchkova. I just wish they would remaster it. By the way, I recently attended a performance of Cinderella by the Russian National Ballet and their presentation was everything I could have hoped for. The two sisters, played by females, danced marvelously and were pretty but decidedly unpleasant to Cinderella who also danced beautifully and was pretty and plausibly young for the role. The wicked stepmother was played by a male dancer who was excellent in the role and never over played his part so that it detracted from the ballet, and the prince's search round the world was included unlike Ashton's version. Unfortunately their performance is not available on DVD, but if they ever do start selling one, that would become my new favorite.

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The roles and physical and psychological ugliness of the step-sisters are prominent in the original story by the Brothers Grimm.

If anything, I think it was Helpmann's portrayal of the toxic sister that upstaged the protagonists.

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The "elderly, ugly" is a riff on Gilbert and Sullivan's "Trial by Jury", where the Learned Judge ascribes part of his success to having wooed a rich attorney's "elderly, ugly daughter", then tossing her aside, thus making him the ideal jurist to try a breach of promise suit! At any rate, the ugly sisters in Ashton's Cinderella are lineal descendants of Carabosse in the Royal Ballet tradition.

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Clearly Ashton couldn't disassociate Cinderella from the traditional pantomimes of his day and his love of pantomime dames is evident in La Fille Mal Gardee too. Whether his Cinderella will survive in its present form I don't know; elsewhere on the internet I've read some very hostile comments about the Ashton version though I have to admit that the present production is badly designed and a number of production details are getting lost along with the Ashton style of dancing. Add to that poor casting choices and you realise how badly the Ashton heritage is faring.

Elsewhere I have a great fondness for Vladimir Vasiliev's Cinderella that I saw danced by the Kremlin Ballet in Paris with Vasiliev himself in drag as the step-mother wearing an outrageous mini skirt. Nureyev's version also features the step-mother played by a man: perhaps men are more suited to these grotesque roles.

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A couple of things:

I thought that Olivier Wevers was brilliant this year in "Sleeping Beauty" this year. To me, the high point of his portrayal of Carabosse (in the Peter Wright version) was when she returned upstage left with the spindle. Wevers gestured to Aurora what could have read as "Come here, my little pretty", but instead made a simple, straightforward, commanding gesture. It was as if it were the first time that anyone had been direct with Aurora and treated her like a person instead of a princess, and it was irresistible. Still, whenever I've seen a man portray Carabosse, it always looks like pantomime to me to some extent, and I prefer a strong, proud, beautiful woman turned bitter. For whatever reason, when a man plays Madge, I don't feel the same way.

My beef with Ashton's version of "Cinderella" is that unlike in "La Fille Mal Gardee", where Widow Simone and the chickens might upstage the protagonists for a while, the pantomime overwhelms the rest of the ballet, and because the Helpmann sister doesn't die, I always am left feeling that Cinderella is going to have to deal with her manipulation forever, even though there were palace guards, and email and the telephone hadn't been invented. (A different "Happily Neverafter" than Cinderella and the Prince bickering.) That's how toxic she comes across to me, and Prokofiev's bittersweet score reinforces this.

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Edwin Denby thought Ashton stole the show' date=' quite unintentionally of course - "the sort of accident that happens to geniuses," as Denby wonderfully put it (from memory). [/quote']

Ashton hit the nail on the head with his portrayal of the emotionally abused stepsister. Of course, that didn't stop her from treating Cinderella badly.

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