Serge PROKOFIEV: Cinderella, Blu-ray & DVD (2017)

This would make a great introduction to Prokofiev’s ballets!

Serge PROKOFIEV: Cinderella, Blu-ray & DVD (2017)

Cast: Mariinsky Ballet Theater
Director and Principal Choreographer: Alexei Ratmansky
Music: Orchestra of the Mariinsky Ballet Theater
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Yuri Fateev
Studio: Mariinsky, Bluray & DVD [9/18/2015]
TV Directors: Antoine Perset & Vincent Massip
Run Time: 110 minutes
Video: 1.77:1 Color. 
Audio: Dolby, NTSC, Stereo
Rating: ****

This is not a new release but it may be one of the ‘must haves’ for lovers of the very beautiful but musically unique Prokofiev ballets. I only just recently came across this when asked to give my thoughts. My thoughts on all ballet remains that it is an artistic genre which can be enjoyed in two realms; in its visual and aural totality and that of the music only. This is why many symphony musicians and audiences would say—myself included—that ballet scores can be great fun to play and to listen to as one does a symphonic tone poem. If we know the story then each scene can be followed like a storyline and the really fine scores—like those of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev stand well on their own and are picturesque in your mind’s eye.

However, even more than opera—in which you can follow a libretto—the experience is most rewarding if we get to see the scenery, watch the beauty and skill of the dancers and become immersed in the experience. Valery Gergiev has, for many years, been arguably Russia’s pre-eminent conductor the St. Petersburg Ballet with its over one hundred year tradition is one of the country’s best companies from the culture who gave prominence to the form. This whole production is a pleasure to experience and I highly recommend it.

The principal dancers are all wonderfully skilled and appropriate to their roles. While Diana Vishneva as Cinderella and Vladimir Shklyarov as the Prince are very talented and beautiful people I was particularly taken with Ekaterina Kondaurova as the Stepmother (aka ‘evil stepmother’) Her portrayal is necessarily mean, jealous and cruel but with just the right amount of ‘daffiness’—almost an eccentricity which I found very refreshing. And Prokofiev’s score, one of his very best, is lush; sweeping and beautiful in places and dramatic and a bit scary in others. (The countdown to midnight scene is one of the best known extracts from this amazing work.)

In fact, I have held that—in addition to the bold and somewhat quirky symphonies and the ground breaking piano concertos—Prokofiev’s best writing can be found in his theater works. I have seen some reviews quibble just a bit with some of Gergiev’s tempos and the little touches of “modernism” in the wardrobe and costume design; but this is trivial. There are other relatively recent video adaptations which are very interesting and rewarding such as those from the Zurich and Dutch ballets and, of course, there is a black and white rendition of the Nureyev performance. I, however, found this iteration well worth having and very entertaining and you would too!

—Daniel Coombs

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