Comparing Cinderellas

Over the past few weeks I’ve been comparing two versions of a ballet – Prokofiev’s Cinderella.  One was a traditional version from Amsterdam, Dutch National Ballet, one a recording of the Matthew Bourne version set during the war, which I saw recently at Sadlers Wells but which was also on TV over Christmas.

The music doesn’t directly correlate as you switch between the two, but I’ve certainly become very familiar with bits of it.  I don’t know if I could say which of the productions I preferred, probably the more traditional one, but only by a bit, and both had interesting scenes and ideas.  For example in the Dutch version I particularly loved the groups of four seasons dancers, in different colours, bright green for spring, yellow for summer, red for autumn, then blue/white for winter, with the trees reflecting the same colours, so pretty.  And also how the trying on of the shoe was done, with a whole row of dancers moving forward by one on a row of chairs, with each one doing something slightly different or comical when it came to their turn.  And in the Matthew Bourne I liked particular moments, like the angel all in silver suddenly appearing on a mantelpiece, and the way the stepmother and family do a funny walk together in the hospital scene, so evocative and so cleverly matching the music.

I’m only just starting to bear to be able to listen to emotional classical music again.  The music of the final scene – I’ve just watched the ending of both versions, not an actual proper dance between the couple but a staged happy ending – when it comes in is SO affecting and emotional, it’s like the Rosenkavalier duet at the end, just magical, all ‘twinkly’, stunning how a piece of music can bring out such feelings in your heart you can hardly express, well done Prokofiev!

Just another musical comment.  It’s a well known thing in classical music and opera for example, that the tempo at which things were taken used to be slower in the past and in modern productions can be faster.  John and I used to discuss this a lot, he had an amazing feel for tempo and we both tended to agree about a preferred tempo.  In general, personally, I often prefer the more ‘old fashioned’ speed, and sometimes find things taken much too fast (many examples I could give in opera).  But listening to the main Cinderella theme repeated at the end of these two ballets – in the traditional one it was played over the credits, in the Bourne there was a wonderful danced curtain call – I really felt the traditional tempo was just that bit too slow and laborious, whereas it was much better, to my ears ‘right’, in the more modern version.

I felt so so sad that my partner that I used to be able to talk to about this sort of thing was gone – and so so sure that he would have agreed with me about the tempo, and about the astonishing musical beauty of the ending.

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