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Prokofiev: Cinderella / Lyon National Opera Ballet

Prokofiev / Opera National De Lyon / Kreisberg
Release Date: 08/28/2012 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 100235  
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Yakov Kreizberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 27 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Maguy Marin's highly original and magical version of the Cinderella story, as conceived for and performed by the Lyon National Opera Ballet, was an unparalleled success through its own world tour. Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times said Marin's "vision reaches back into the universals of everyone's childhood - the hurts and joys resonate here with touching depth." The characters in her beautifully child-like version of the ballet are live dolls, with real human feelings projected upon them in the way children identify with their real playthings. The story unfolds within a doll's house set - The Fairy Godmother resembles a robot, Cinderella goes to the ball in a toy car and the Prince goes in search of his new love on a rocking Read more horse.

"Ms. Marin is a modern-dance experimentalist, and the Lyon National Opera Ballet has been in the forefront of companies encouraging such hybrids. Here she dresses the dancers in doll masks and upper-body padding, and turns the whole scenario into a fairy tale both childlike and scary as seen through a child's eyes. The choreography, devoid of point work, is witty and ingenious. For those with a venturesome spirit, willing to see her vision as akin to the masks and costumes and puppetry of Asia, this is a treat."
- John Rockwell, NEW YORK TIMES

Sergei Prokofiev

Cendrillon – Françoise Joullié
Stepmother – Dominique Lainé
The Sisters – Jayne Plaisted, Danièle Pater
The Father – Patrick Azzopardi
Fairy Godmother – Nathalie Delassis
The Prince – Bernard Cauchard

Lyon National Opera Ballet and Orchestra
Yakov Kreizberg, conductor

Maguy Marin, choreographer
Montserrat Casanova, set and costume designer
John Spradberry, lighting designer
Jean Schwarz, additional music

Studio Production of the Lyon Opera House, 1989

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 87 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

R E V I E W:


PROKOFIEV Cinderella Maguy Marin, choreographer; Françoise Joullié (Cinderella); Bernard Cauchard (The Prince); Nathalie Delassis (The Fairy Godmother); Dominique Lainé (The Stepmother); Jayne Plaisted, Danièle Pater (The Stepsisters); Patrick Azzopardi (The Father); Ballet & O of the Lyon Natl Op; Yakov Kreizberg, cond ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 235 (DVD: 87:00)

This production was filmed in a studio, not in front of an audience, in 1989, but it holds up surprisingly well. This is not a traditional production of Prokofiev’s ballet. Choreographer Maguy Marin has turned it into a ballet of dolls, but has squeezed out all of the sugar. In fact, this is a dark take on Cinderella, and I am not sure I would recommend it for younger children. All of the dancers wear doll heads, which cover their own heads completely. These are old-fashioned doll heads—like the ones the Brothers Quay use in their films—and they are creepy. Some of them are even dirty or cracked. Furthermore, the costumes are padded and they often distort the shape of the dancers’ bodies. If David Lynch directed an episode of the Teletubbies, something like this might result.

Marin strips the story down to its essentials. Both Cinderella and her Prince, despite their different socioeconomic statuses, live in worlds of ugliness and cruelty. They themselves are islands of innocence, however, and in spite of that innocence, they are the least immature individuals. At times, as if to intensify an atmosphere of childish evil, Marin dispenses with Prokofiev’s music entirely, replacing it with a soundtrack of the voices of children and babies, amplified and sometimes frighteningly processed. Much of the score is cut, and what remains is reordered or altered. Prokofiev purists will be appalled by this production, no doubt, but if you’re willing to put prejudices aside, I think you will be impressed. What remains of the score is conducted very ably by Yakov Kreizberg (here spelled “Kreisberg”) and this itself is poignant, as Kreizberg died in 2011 at the age of 51.

One would think that dancers whose faces and athletic, graceful bodies cannot be properly seen would be at a disadvantage. Instead, the doll heads and the padding force them to act out their emotions with a high level of intensity. I really didn’t expect to get choked up by any production of this ballet, but there were moments throughout that deeply moved me.

Marin is not a classical choreographer, but one who uses both classical and modern dance to create characters and to tell her story. She does not hesitate to be ugly and cruel in a story which has both ugly and cruel elements. Cinderella receives a lot of physical abuse, dances awkwardly and falls several times after she is transformed by her Fairy Godmother (who is a sort of automaton, rather like the false Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). In the second act, she even falls down the palace stairs; good thing for the padded costume!

The dancing is superb. I don’t know how Françoise Joullié was able to move her body like that, let alone convey such emotion with it, but such is the miracle of modern dance at its best. To be fair, though, everyone’s dancing is miraculous in this production. Even viewers who don’t usually warm to this genre may find themselves heartily impressed by this unconventional take on Cinderella.

I sat down to watch this half thinking that I was going to hate it. I was hooked within five minutes. I strongly recommend this DVD to anyone with even a smidgen of interest in modern ballet. A popular and critical hit when it appeared in the late 1980s, it remains viable and looks great on DVD. There are no extras on this DVD, but don’t let that dissuade you: this needs to be seen.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Cinderella, Op. 87 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Yakov Kreizberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940-1944; USSR 

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