Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

On Point, Missing the Glass Slipper ; Mariinsky's 'Cinderella,' Revisited a Decade Later, Is Somber and Industrial

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

On Point, Missing the Glass Slipper ; Mariinsky's 'Cinderella,' Revisited a Decade Later, Is Somber and Industrial

Article excerpt

A decade after its premiere, the Marinsky's "Cinderella" is still a somber but sparkling affair.

It's odd to think that in 2002, when Alexei Ratmansky created "Cinderella" for the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, he was virtually unknown to Western audiences. A decade later, and after a rapid rise to choreographic fame, Mr. Ratmansky, who is American Ballet Theater's artist in residence, is frequently described as the most important ballet choreographer today.

The Mariinsky still performs "Cinderella," which opened on Thursday night as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. The short season at the Festival Theater has the glittery appeal not just of Russian ballet glamour but also of the on-podium presence of the Mariinsky's director and principal conductor, Valery Gergiev.

Mr. Gergiev's brooding charisma undoubtedly lent the occasion a bit of sparkle, as did the first-night casting of Diana Vishneva (for whom Mr. Ratmansky created the title role), Igor Kolb as her prince, and Ekaterina Kondaurova as the stepmother. But if audience members were anticipating the "Cinderella" common to most ballet productions, their expectations would have been slightly deflated.

Mr. Ratmansky's version is essentially somber, and in this respect it catches the mordant, sarcastic qualities of the Prokofiev score, although it also responds to its gloriously danceable melodies. (Both of these aspects were resonantly apparent in Mr. Gergiev's account.) But this "Cinderella" is a curiously uneven work, suggesting that Mr. Ratmansky hadn't yet quite worked out the balance between obeisance to ballet tradition and subversion of it - - a tightrope that he walks with bravura aplomb in later pieces like "Namouna" (2010) and "Psyche" (2011).

Unlike Frederick Ashton's 1948 "Cinderella" (to which there are occasional references), Mr. Ratmansky's version has the stepsister and stepmother roles danced by women rather than men, and they are not fond and funny caricatures, although Ms. Kondaurova gives the stepmother a Cruella de Vil allure. Their characters are vain, vapid and almost too self-absorbed to be cruel to Cinderella, who is more ignored than abused. There are no fairies, mice or pumpkins; the Fairy Godmother is renamed the Fairy Tramp (danced with ghoulish glee by Elena Bazhenova) and has a decidedly bag-lady air.

Nobody, apart from the heroine, and perhaps the Prince, is particularly nice. The ball shows us bored revelers who regard Cinderella with an air of sophisticated disdain; the Prince's black- clad friends have a vaguely sinister air; and there is no reconciliation between Cinderella and her family at the end. (Her stepmother and stepsisters walk off, too proud to accept her tentative approaches; her drunken father embraces her then asks for money and leaves. It's all pretty grim. …

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