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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella Reviews & Synopsis

This co-production between Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet has just premiered in Amsterdam and will be opening in San Francisco in May.

Laura Cappelle, Financial Times:
"this Cinderella is modern ballet theatre at its most winningly charming, and could open the way for international collaborations on new, less familiar story ballets.

Translations of reviews in the Dutch press:

An interview with Christopher Wheeldon:

For rehearsal videos and a photo gallery, click here:

Act One
1 Garden Estate

Young Cinderella is playing outside with
her mother and father when suddenly her
mother is taken ill. In terrifying rapidity
her mother is taken from her and Four
Fates are left to watch over Cinderella,
who weeps over her mother’s grave. A
tree sprouts from her tears.
2 Royal Palace
The young Prince Guillaume and his
friend Benjamin, the valet’s son, dash
through the hallways of the palace causing
havoc, pursued by Madame Mansard,
the prince’s dancing mistress. Suddenly
King Albert and Queen Charlotte
appear, stiff and formal. The king is appalled
at Guillaume’s lack of discipline
but the queen is more forgiving. The boys
dash off again into the garden.
3 The Grave
Cinderella, older, brings flowers to her
mother’s grave. Two girls, Clementine
and Edwina, appear, followed by their
mother Hortensia, on the arm of Cinderella’s
Father. Cinderella realises that this
is to be her new family. Hortensia hands
Clementine a bouquet to present to Cinderella
who, horrified on behalf of her
dead mother, discards it. Her father insists
that she take the flowers, but Cinderella
hurls them at Hortensia’s feet.
Cinderella’s father will not tolerate this
behaviour. Fuelled by pride alone, Cinderella
assumes a subservient attitude
towards the women, thus sealing her own fate.
4 Royal Palace Gallery
King Albert attempts to explain to his
grown son the political connections to be
gained by marrying a titled princess.
Queen Charlotte writes invitations to an
upcoming ball where the prince will meet
these prospective brides. Guillaume is
quickly distracted by Benjamin who imitates
the many foreign princesses in the
portraits hanging on the walls. King Albert
becomes enraged at his son’s lack of
responsibility to his future kingdom.
Guillaume can’t believe his parents
would force him into a loveless marriage.
Albert insists the invitations be delivered
in person by the prince himself. Guillaume
and Benjamin hatch a plan to
trade places, pretending to be one another.
5 Cinderella’s Kitchen
Cinderella stoically serves her family
breakfast. The briefest sign of tenderness
towards Cinderella from her father is
frowned upon by Hortensia. Edwina follows
closely in her mother’s footsteps,
gaining favour from her. Clementine, the
sweeter stepsister, is bullied into following
suit. A poor beggar arrives at the
door seeking food and warmth. Taking
pity, Cinderella brings him into the kitchen,
but Hortensia, horrified, casts him
out again. ‘The Prince’ (Benjamin) appears
at the door. He has discovered a
poor beggar outside and insists that
Hortensia offer him food and a bit of
warmth. Hortensia feigns concern and
orders Cinderella to help the beggar. ‘The
Prince’ has come to deliver invitations to
a ball where he shall choose his bride.
Left alone with Cinderella, the beggar
(Prince Guillaume in disguise) sees true
kindness in this girl. The two pretend to
be at the ball, laughing and dancing.

6 The Night of the Ball
Cinderella is cleaning the kitchen when
the rest of her family appears, dressed for
the ball. There was an invitation for Cinderella,
but Hortensia throws it into the
fire, and off her family goes to the palace
without Cinderella. The Fates, who have
continued to watch over Cinderella, present
her with her reconstituted invitation
and lead her to her mother’s grave.
7 The Grave
From the tree, spirits of Lightness, Fluidity,
Generosity and Mystery appear to
teach Cinderella the steps she will need
for the ball. Embraced by the branches,
Cinderella is transformed and the Fates
send her on her way, cryptically warning
her to keep an eye on the time.
Act Two
1 The Palace Ballroom

The Ball is underway when Cinderella’s
family arrives. The king and queen witness
the rather tipsy arrival of Prince
Guillaume and Benjamin, neither in correct
attire for such a formal occasion.
Cinderella’s stepsisters still believe Benjamin
to be the prince, giving the two
young men another chance for deception.
Guillaume finds he is uninterested in any
of the eligible ladies, stepsisters included.
A magical atmosphere fills the ballroom
as a mysterious masked girl arrives. Guillaume
is immediately drawn to her. Cinderella,
recognising Guillaume as the urchin,
turns to flee, but is gently guided
back to him by the Fates. The couple
waltz together. Seeing the interest the
prince shows in this mysterious beauty,
Hortensia takes to the bottle, humiliating
herself. Benjamin dances with Clementine,
whom he likes. Guillaume and Cinderella
dance, falling deeper in love.

When Hortensia rips off Cinderella’s
mask, it is time for her to flee. In the chaos
caused by her sudden departure, she
leaves behind one golden shoe. Guillaume
vows to marry her.

Act Three
1 In the Kingdom

Benjamin and Guillaume search for Cinderella,
trying the shoe on every female
foot they can find.
2 Cinderella’s Kitchen
Cinderella awakens, and with the help of
the Fates, remembers her astonishing
night at the palace. Hiding the other
golden shoe on the mantelpiece, she resigns
herself to her daily chores. Clementine
tells Cinderella of the boy she met,
and then Edwina turns suspicious when
she spies Cinderella dancing steps from
the ball. Hortensia viciously attacks Cinderella,
and father must step in. Unannounced,
Benjamin and Guillaume arrive,
exhausted from trying the shoe on
so many feet. When the shoe does not fit
either of the stepsisters, Hortensia
throws it into the fire. Cinderella comes
forward with the matching shoe. Prince
Guillaume has found his princess. Cinderella
and her prince leave the family
behind. All is not lost for Clementine,
however, as Benjamin returns to take her
with him. And a royal wedding is held.

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