Known for its magnificent productions at the Royal Albert Hall, English National Ballet streams the final performance in its Wednesday Watch Party series this week – Christopher Wheeldon’s spectacular production of Cinderella in-the-round, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s glorious score.
Wheeldon – regarded as the most successful choreographer of his generation – has created a number of highly acclaimed choreographic works for some of the world’s finest ballet companies. As director and choreographer of the 2014 revival of An American in Paris on Broadway – for which he won a Tony Award – he showed the world of entertainment that his talents aren’t limited to classical ballet, either.
Wheeldon’s Cinderella was originally created simultaneously for Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet in 2012. It’s not a simple retelling of the traditional fairytale, but his interpretation – drawing on both the Perrault and Brothers Grimm versions of the story – doesn’t deviate too far from it, and features some fascinating innovations.
The focus for Cinderella, following her mother’s death, is a ‘living’ tree which rises from the earth, watered by the young girl’s falling tears, and providing a backdrop to the antics of a selection of weird and wonderful woodland creatures and elegant fairies. To guide and protect Cinderella, Four ‘Fates’ replace the fairy godmother of the original story, her sisters are portrayed as young girls – splendidly retaining the comedy aspects of their characters – and the coach and horses which whisk Cinderella to the ball are magical.
Cinderella is the result of a collaboration between some wonderfully creative artists. The libretto is by Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominee Craig Lucas, the stunning sets and exquisite costumes are by Julian Crouch (Metropolitan Opera and Broadway) special effects – among which are the tree and the coach – are by Obie Award winner and MacArthur Foundation Fellow Basil Twist, with lighting by Natasha Katz, and projection design by Daniel Brodie.
Prokofiev’s gorgeous score is retained, with its sumptuous melodies and traditional variations. He started writing the score in 1940 – a work initially intended for the then Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky) – but due to the intervention of World War II, he moved it aside and didn’t return to it for two years. When it was finally completed, operational problems caused by the War prevented the Kirov from mounting the production, and it was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet instead, in November 1945. The ballet was a tremendous success, and the score was one of Prokofiev’s works named when he was awarded a Stalin State Prize shortly afterwards.
The English National Ballet Philharmonic is led by Music Director, Gavin Sutherland, who refers to Cinderella as “a great score, because it grabs the attention from the first note and it holds you until the end”.
Dancing the leads in this performance are Alina Cojocaru and Isaac Hernández, and it can be viewed on Facebook or Youtube on Wednesday 8th Jul at 7.00pm BST. Cinderella will be available to view for a further 48 hours afterwards.
More information can be found on the English National Ballet website.