Cinderella, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, November 2010

One of the lovely things about Ashton’s Cinderella is the intermingling of the real world with the magical world. This makes it ideal for Christmas or Easter, when everyday life for many people is invested with a little magic.

Marianela Nuñez as Cinderella, photos by Tristram Kenton

Act I starts with poor Cinderella by the fire, and the party preparations of her ridiculous step-sisters. An old crone comes begging and the poor girl’s sympathy for her is rewarded when the old woman reappears . . . and the magic starts. One transformation follows another: the crone turns into a fairy godmother, she causes the house to disappear, and then ushers in the fairies of spring, summer, autumn and winter, with the sets transforming between each one. The soloists on this first night (Iohna Loots, Yuhui Choe, Samantha Raine and Hikaru Kobayashi) all did well, and Choe was outstandingly warm and musical as Summer. So many transformations in a single Act, yet there is one more to come as the pumpkin turns into a coach, which then takes a beautifully transformed Cinderella off to the ball.

Rupert Pennefather as the Prince

In Act II the real and magical worlds alternate, and Rupert Pennefather as the prince seems to inhabit both, as does Paul Kay as a brilliantly acrobatic jester. Those ugly sisters now reappear, and when Cinderella later comes on looking like a princess, Gary Avis as the taller sister casts an embarrassing glance at his own garish costume. He and Philip Mosley interacted superbly with one another as the sisters, and Avis was gloriously over the top without ever descending into pantomime or farce. The comic timing was perfect. On the magical side, Laura Morera was a lovely fairy godmother, and Marianela Nuñez was wonderful as Cinderella, both as a simple house-slave and as the queen of the ball — a true fairy-tale character.

This production by Wendy Somes contains some clever ideas such as the moon transforming into a clock in Act I when the fairy godmother warns that the spell will break at midnight, and then the clock in the ball scene — invisible from the Amphitheatre — shows itself in the lighting on the dance-floor so the whole audience can see it. The transformation of Cinderella’s clothes from a brilliant white tutu to rags is done in a split second, and the poor girl flees as the curtains close.

Paul Kay as the Jester

Act III again mixes the mundane and the magical, and some clever effects are achieved with Mark Jonathan’s lighting. I like the dappled pink effect in the auditorium during the overture, and the dappled white at the end, as the prince and his bride recede into the distance. For an evening of enchantment you won’t do better. Ashton’s choreography is magical — the fairy-tale entrance of Cinderella to the ball as she comes down the stairs en pointe in ethereal splendour, the brilliant asymmetry of the twelve stars … one could go on and on.

Prokofiev’s score was beautifully conducted by Pavel Sorokin, and further performances are scheduled for November 24, 27 and December 2, 3, 9, 13, 17, 21, 28, 29 and 31. Other dancers in the role of Cinderella are: Yuhui Choe, Roberta Marquez, Tamara Rojo and Lauren Cuthbertson — for more details click here, though tickets seem to be almost entirely sold out. If you miss it in 2010, another run of performances is arranged around the Easter period — April 7, 10, 12, 13, 16, 19, 23, 25, and May 3 and 6, but booking is not yet open.

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