When this Maguy Marin production of Prokofiev's Cinderella premiered at various venues across the globe in the 1980s it was generally critically acclaimed. It is certainly imaginative and brilliantly conceived, but it won't be to everyone's taste. The dancers wear doll-like masks and the characters in effect become dolls. Many of them wear fat suits under mostly plain-looking and sometimes drab costumes. The choreography is rather surrealistic, often appearing mechanical (are they dolls on stage or puppets?) The set is a large doll's house. Ms. Marin has stated that she questioned the idea that Cinderella needed to become a princess to become happy, and so the regal aspects are played down. Love is played up. She also wanted to portray the Prince as a heroic person despite his money and fortunate circumstances. Ironically, some Soviet productions of Cinderella took a not too dissimilar view, depicting a class struggle in the story, a sort of proletariat-versus-bourgeoisie plot. It's funny how this seemingly simple fairytale could spawn such interpretations.
Marin makes a good case for her view of the story, however. Yet, I'm not sure the whole thing is as successful as most critics have thought. There are several scenes in which the music stops and pre-recorded, computer-processed voices are heard. They sound like groups of babies laughing or crying or screaming or moaning. These scenes can actually be irritating (at least to me), as can Cinderella's jump-rope scene at the ball. And there are considerable cuts: Prokofiev's Cinderella in a complete performance lasts nearly two hours, but this one lasts but eight-seven minutes, and that includes the several parts where music is not heard. Thus the fifty dance numbers are reduced to about thirty-four or so here.
Still, there are more pluses in this production than minuses: Yakov Kreisberg draws fine, spirited playing from the orchestra and the dancing is excellent. Françoise Joullié as Cinderella and Bernard Cauchard as the Prince are especially splendid. The camera work and sound reproduction are also quite good here. If you like traditional ballet productions, you may find this effort problematic. But those with adventurous or modern tastes should find this a most interesting, even fascinating offering.
Copyright © 2012, Robert Cummings