Notes and Editorial Reviews
A person would really have to dislike ballet not to love, or at least immensely enjoy, this Wiener Staatsoper production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s only ballet, Aschenbrödel (“Cinderella”). It is tuneful, colorful, clever, imaginative, at times playful, at other times warm-hearted and touching. It is full of mirth and fancy, the costumes are outrageously wonderful, so are the sets, and the talented cast infuses the event with enthusiasm. They look like they’re having a great time, and the audience responds with an outburst of thunderous applause at the conclusion.
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J. STRAUSS II
Michael Halász, cond; Eva Petters (
); Gregor Hatala (
); Christian Rovny (
J. Strauss, Jr.
); Wolfgang Grascher (
); Jolantha Seyfried (
); Simona Noja (
); Jürgen Wagner (
); Tomislav Petranovic (
); Domenico Ducato (
); Tamás Solymosi (
); Vienna St Op Ballet & O
EUROARTS 2055928 (DVD: 122:00) Live: Vienna 12/21–22/1999
A person would really have to dislike ballet not to love, or at least immensely enjoy, this Wiener Staatsoper production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s only ballet,
(“Cinderella”). It is tuneful, colorful, clever, imaginative, at times playful, at other times warm-hearted and touching. It is full of mirth and fancy, the costumes are outrageously wonderful, so are the sets, and the talented cast infuses the event with enthusiasm. They look like they’re having a great time, and the audience responds with an outburst of thunderous applause at the conclusion. The only detracting factor is the overuse of close-ups. We don’t need a close-up of their noses when they’re dancing!
This is an updated production. Actually, it’s an update of an update. The original libretto used Perrault’s fairy tale as the basis for the plot, but moved the action forward to the end of the 19th century and placed it in a department store. This production projects the story another 200 years to the end of the 21st century. Choreographer Renato Zanella has taken some liberties with the score and story line. He’s inserted some extra music and some extra characters, including Johann Strauss Jr., who acts as the
deus ex machina
. Unable to attend the premiere of the ballet he left incomplete at his death, the choreographer allows Strauss to finally enter the proceedings and assigns to him the role typically held by the Fairy Godmother.
Except for the ballet Strauss inserted into his opera
, Strauss’s dance music was largely confined to numerous waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, etc. (some of which were used by choreographers as the basis for ballets such as
Le beau Danube
). Late in his life Strauss was encouraged to compose a ballet. A contest with nearly 700 entrants was held to obtain an original story line. The winner, A. Kollmann (thought to be a pseudonym used by Carl Colbert), based his story on
The names were changed (Cinderella became Grete, for example), and the action was situated in a department store, The Four Seasons, owned by Gustav. In this Wiener Staatsoper production, Gustav is now one of the store manager’s three nephews. Madame Leontine (originally head milliner, now owner of a fashion studio) has two daughters, Fanchon and Yvette and a stepdaughter, Grete. Enter Johann Strauss, floating down from the loft in a cloud, and assuming a variety of disguises during the production. He places Grete under his protection, and makes certain she gets the handsome Gustav. This production has a happy ending: Madame Leontine gets the store manager, Monsieur Arnaud, and the two daughters pair up with Gustav’s brothers, Franz and Josef. Before the happy conclusion, Grete and Gustav have a
pas de deux
to the strains of
On the Beautiful Blue Danube
. This famous and popular waltz was originally intended to be played on a barrel organ to accompany a round dance in the first act, but inclusion was hampered by copyright restrictions. In this production, the waltz is briefly played on the barrel organ in act I and returns in a fully orchestrated, nearly complete version, in the third act.
Strauss died before completing the score. He left detailed notes, enough that Joseph Bayer was able to assemble and orchestrate a satisfying production. Well, not everyone was satisfied. Like Franco Alfano, who completed Puccini’s
, Bayer found his efforts were rewarded with criticism that he was not Strauss’s equal in the talent department. Numerous difficulties plagued efforts to stage the ballet, many of them budgetary, and following a rewrite of the story line by Heinrich Regel and last minute costume changes,
premiered at the Royal Opera in Berlin on May 2, 1901. In spite of several successful productions in the early years of the 20th century, Strauss’s
was largely ignored until the 1970s. Noteworthy at the ballet’s premiere was praise that the “little balloon-skirts” typically worn by ballerinas were replaced with flowing dresses that occasioned a style of dance that broke with tradition. In this Staatsoper production, Renato Zanella’s choreography is a happy mix of traditional and contemporary. His style reminds me of Balanchine, although with more flare and whimsy.
All of the dancers bring distinct personalities to their roles, helped by the outrageous and imaginative costumes by Christian Lacroix. The photos on the box don’t even begin to show you the brilliance of these creations. The beefcake photo on the cover, of a shirtless Gregor Hatala (taken from a dream sequence in the third act) might lead you to incorrectly conclude that this is a minimalist affair in scanty modern dress. Turn the box over and check out Madame Leontine’s couture in the center picture and you will get a better image of the colorful, fanciful creations. Near the end of the third act the action moves to the bridal section of the department store, where we’re treated to a fashion show of exotic wedding dresses. Unfortunately, the persistent use of close-ups of the models faces limits the time we are able to savor these gowns in their entirety.
I hope my enthusiasm for this Wiener Staatsoper production of
is contagious and you will enjoy it as much as I did. There are no extras or bonus events, other than an advertisement for some other EuroArts DVDs. The picture is 4:3 full screen; the sound choices are PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, and DTS 5.1.
FANFARE: David L. Kirk
Christian Rovny • Jolantha Seyfried • Christian Tichy • Simona Noja • Gregor Hatala
Corps de ballet der Wiener Staatsoper
Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
Michael Hálasz, conductor
Renato Zanella, choreographer and stage director
Christian Lacroix, stage and costumes designer
Recorded live at the Wiener Staatsoper, 21, 22 December 1999
Picture format: NTSC • 4:3full screen
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (all)
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 118 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
* Aschenbrödel (Cinderella) is one of those stories meant for dancing. Its cornerstone is a fabulous ball and at its heart is love, the loss of a mother's love and the finding of romance.
* This version of Cinderella, danced to the music of Vienna's musical hero, Johann Strauss II - Aschenbrödel is Strauss's only ballet score.
* The Vienna State Opera House has restaged it in a new version by Renato Zanella.
* While the basis of the story remains intact the style of this new version is pure Vienna with a touch of French flair.
* Costumes designed by Christian Lacroix, one of the leading Paris Fashion Designer.
Works on This Recording
Aschenbrödel by Johann Strauss Jr.
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
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