CINDERELLA opens at The Royal Opera House with video design from FINN ROSS ★★★★★

Cinderella review — design magic has transformed Ashton's classic

The Stage

5 stars out of 5

Cinderella review

“Has the wow factor you hope for”

Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in Cinderella at the Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Whizz-bang revamp of the classic Ashton ballet brings out its magic

After 12 years off the Covent Garden stage, Frederick Ashton’s production returns for its 75th anniversary looking luxurious. The first full-length English classical ballet ever performed at the Royal Opera House back in 1948, it holds a symbolic place in the Royal Ballet repertoire, but in truth it needed some dust knocked off it.

Now Tom Pye’s new sets – from Cinders’ kitchen to the gardens of the Prince’s palace (a sumptuous Waddesdon-style confection), to a dream realm with a stairway to heaven – ping to life thanks to Finn Ross’ video work. The Fairy Godmother arrives in a cascade of firefly-like sparkles that cover the stage; season-appropriate flowers bloom across the arches as the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Fairies dance their demanding solos; Cinderella’s transformation scene gets the wow factor you’d hope for.

The Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne has also run with the flower theme for her new creations – you can spot them everywhere. The fairies’ dresses are the most striking of her designs, while the Ugly Sisters are splendidly grotesque in their hothouse hues (packet-blancmange pink, chartreuse and purple).

It’s so easy to have those panto dame-like harridans steal the show, with their larger-than-life clowning and battering-ram humour, but their nastiness has now been toned down. Gary Avis (the domineering one) and Luca Acri (the bumblingly inept one) seem much less the cruel-hearted bullies of previous interpretations, and their music-hall antics blend in more as a result. Lukas Bjorneboe Braendsrod, as the suitor they squabble over at the Prince’s ball, almost seemed to corpse on opening night – and who could blame him?

Marianela Nuñez is a radiantly sunny Cinderella, a smile never far from her lips, whether dreamily dancing with a broom in her kitchen, or dazzling her Prince. She’s not really a put-upon Cinders, condemned to a life of drudgery, more a young girl missing her mother, with a kindly father whose only fault is to wear rose-tinted glasses – literally here. The role is a showcase for Ashton’s fiendish footwork, and it holds no problems for Nuñez. She floats through the flurries of flickering steps, endless spins and breath-catching balances, and even makes walking down steps on pointe look easy. Her extraordinary innate musicality is beautifully shown off. Vadim Muntagirov, as her prince in sparkling white, partners her beautifully, strong and attentive at all times.

The luxury cast of fairies shimmers, especially a light-as-air Fumi Kaneko as Fairy Godmother, and Yuhui Choe in the frenetically fiery Autumn Fairy solo. First artist Taisuke Nakao seems spring-loaded as the palace Jester. Meanwhile, a well-drilled corps gives us waves of graceful ball-goers and a delightful company of tutu-ed stars moving smoothly through choreography that suggests a perfect clockwork mechanism. At one point, David Finn’s lighting even turns the ballroom scene into something out of a Degas painting, the dancers uplit in gold and twirling in tutus. The magic is back.



Financial Times
5 star out of 5

Five stars for Royal Ballet’s spruced-up Cinderella — review

Tom Pye’s designs make Frederick Ashton’s masterpiece shine anew while Marianela Nuñez remains dream casting The luridly dressed Ugly Sisters sabotage an understated colour palette © Tristram Kenton Five stars for Royal Ballet’s spruced-up Cinderella — review on twitter (opens in a new window) Five stars for Royal Ballet’s spruced-up Cinderella — review on facebook (opens in a new window) Five stars for Royal Ballet’s spruced-up Cinderella — review on linkedin (opens in a new window) Save current progress 98% Louise Levene YESTERDAY 3 Print this page Receive free Dance updates We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Dance news every morning.

Missing from the Royal Ballet repertoire for more than a decade, Cinderella made a triumphant return on Monday in a handsome new production cast to the hilt and led with smiling grace by Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov. Charles Perrault’s gentle 1697 retelling of the ancient story — no child abuse, no sawn-off toes — inspired numerous ballets to a variety of music, and in 1948 Frederick Ashton made his three-act masterpiece to the Prokofiev score that had premiered in Moscow only three years earlier. After years of what he called his “private lessons” watching the works of imperial ballet master Marius Petipa, Ashton was supersaturated with the classics and Cinderella poured out of him — he claimed to have written all three acts in only four weeks. The Royal Ballet’s last Cinderella makeover in 2003 was an underwhelming compromise of mimsy sets and drippy costumes. The new production is far more successful. Tom Pye’s opening scenes are a study in shabby gentility, with a dilapidated drawing room giving on to the cracked glass wall of a fly-blown conservatory. As the Fairy Godmother (the crystalline Fumi Kaneko) introduces the four season fairies, the vaulted ceiling becomes a screen for Finn Ross’s projected découpage of flowers, fruits and foliage. Piece by piece, the real world is whisked away until only the stars, the Moon and the ominous clock face remain. The same sense of unreality suffuses the second act. The facade of the Prince’s palace — part Waddesdon Manor, part Château de Chambord — remains tantalisingly insubstantial, like a vast baroque doll’s house. Marianela Nuñez in ‘Cinderella’ © Tristram Kenton Costume designer Alexandra Byrne is no slave to colour schemes and only the 12 “Stars” — Ashton’s constant reminder of the passage of time — are tutu’d to match. Act one’s army of dancing masters and dressmakers sport random eye-popping shades while act two’s ball guests wear mix-and-match pastel tulle, like a trolley dash through a vintage boutique. This understated palette is mercilessly sabotaged by the Ugly Sisters in a riot of violet, viridian and candyfloss. Drag was a simpler business in 1948 when Ashton and Robert Helpmann created the original sisters and the caricatures now tread a fine line between grotesquerie and misogyny. Some of this season’s 28 performances will be danced by women — an experiment not tried since the early 1960s — but Monday’s opening featured witty Gary Avis as the scene-stealing Helpmann sister and an unrecognisable Luca Acri as his “shy” sidekick. Carefully calibrated playing and the redemptive sweetness of Ashton’s scenario ensure that the comedy is broad but never vulgar. Cinderella forgives them and so must we. Vadim Muntagirov somehow combines show-stopping virtuosity with utter self-effacement and Marianela Nuñez, with her quick feet, pliant torso and vari-speed pirouettes, remains dream casting for Ashton’s sweet-natured heroine. Her chains of turns unspool with dizzy inevitability, ever alert to the bittersweet score, strongly played by Koen Kessels and the orchestra. Prokofiev’s delicate diminuendo is lifted by the corny but always effective use of a glitter drop and the curtain falls on the couple as they climb Pye’s heavenly stairway towards the happiest of endings.

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