sábado, julio 18, 2015

“Cinderellas” in ballet and opera: fascinating comparisons

            Charles Perrault (1628-1703) is still famous for his collection of folk fairy tales, "Contes de ma Mère l´Oye" (1697). Some of them have elicited valuable ballets and operas, or even musicals, such as "Beauty and the Beast". "Sleeping Beauty" inspired Tchaikovsky´s best ballet but also operas such as Respighi´s "La Bella addormentata nel bosco", premièred here some years ago. Ravel produced his delicious "Ma Mère l´Oye", eventually made into a ballet.

            "Cendrillon" ("Cinderella") is my subject today. Curiously enough, last year we saw the posthumous and only ballet by Johann Strauss II, "Aschenbrödel" ("Cinderella" in German) with choreography by Renato Zanella, on a plot loosely based on the original. It is charming music and agreeable choreography, but Prokofiev´s ballet is an important work on the subject, and I am very glad that the Teatro Argentino programmed it with a choreography by the Venezuelan master Vicente Nebrada as revived by Laura Fiorucci. In fact, the event happened in July 2014 but at that time I was traveling in Germany (I wrote about it in the Herald);  now they offered a new series of performances and I could catch the one of July 3rd (second cast).

            Prokofiev´s greatest ballet is, of course, "Romeo and Juliet" (it is in fact the best of the XXth Century) but "Cinderella" is certainly quite valuable. It exploits two veins of the composer´s rich inspiration: the poetic and sentimental (Cinderella and the Prince) and the grotesque (the Stepmother and Stepsisters). Beautiful dreamy waltzes for the first, sarcastic and mordant music for the second.

            Prokofiev and Stravinsky, both Russian, are the most prolific great ballet composers of the preceding century. To stick to the first, I mention two savagely effective ballets of his youth: "Ala and Lolly" is rarely done but the "Scythian Suite" extracted from it is the closest Prokofiev ever came to Stravinsky´s momentous "Rite of Spring"; and "Chout, the buffoon" is as lurid as Bartók´s "The Miraculous Mandarin". There´s also the admirable "Prodigal Son" choreographed by Balanchine, the machinistic short ballet "The Steel Trot" ("Le Pas d´Acier"), the peasant story of "On the Dnieper" and the full-length last ballet, on a folk tale, "The Stone Flower".

            Prokofiev liked to fully use his material, and he extracted from the 50 numbers of "Cinderella" no less than three orchestral suites and three series of piano pieces.The ballet was written during the war years 1941-4 (!) and premièred at Moscow´s Bolshoi on November 1945.

            Nebrada presented a long time ago at the Colón a charming Neoclassic traversal of Venezuelan waltzes written by Teresa Carreño, but I haven´t seen other works of his until this "Cinderella", also Neoclassic. As Fiorucci said, this "Cinderella" "has absolute respect for the original story though giving special importance to fantasy and magic".

             The hand programme refers to an earlier version choreographed at the old Argentino by Liliana Belfiore, but I didn´t see it. However, I remember vividly the George Skibine splendid choreography for the Colón about 40 years ago. I haven´t seen the Prokofiev "Cinderella" since then. I have long cherished the complete music conducted by Rozhdestvensky, and I still remember one of my daughters, then six, asking  for the stepdaughters´ dance and gyrating across the room untiringly...

            The dreamy and Neoclassic part is impeccably done by Nebrada, with taste and knowledge. As to the grotesque, there´s plenty of it. In fact the threesome of mother and daughters dance a lot, the mother supercilious, the daughters boorish and funny. They were very well impersonated by the tall Darío Lesnik and the much smaller  Miguel Moyano and Juan Pablo Caballero, adding stage business without music.

            The long divertimenti on the Four Seasons were done with elegance, led by Paula García Brunelli as the Fairy Godmother. The Romantic couple was pleasantly done by Julieta Paul and the elegant Miguel Ángel Klug. The agile Esteban Schenone (The Duke), the impeccable Victor Filimonov (Dance Master) and Leticia Latrónico as the Good Witch completed the cast. The Corps de Ballet did well.

            I was impressed by the quality of the production: Sabrina Streiff as Stage Directress;  imaginative and finely executed stage designs by Gastón Joubert; nice costumes by Nicolás Biolatto (and appropriately ridiculous ones for the Step- characters); beautiful lighting by Leandro Calonge; and brilliant projections by Federico Bongiorno.

            Carlos Calleja was the good conductor of an attentive orchestra, although some finer points were absent.

            I was happy to catch one of only two performances of Marta Lambertini´s chamber opera "¡Cenicientaaa!" at the Margarita Xirgú. Some years ago I had seen the première at the Teatro del Globo and last season I received a CD of it. She has an uproarious humor both in the music and the text, written in an invented "language" inimitably her own.

            Apart from a difficult Overture, the music is quite direct but refined at the same time, always impeccably attuned to the theatrical situation. The story is reasonably well told in macarronic style.

            The presentation was by the DAMus  (Department of Musical Arts Carlos López Buchardo) and the DAV (Department of Visual Arts) of the UNA (Universidad Nacional de las Artes). With ingenious cut-paper costumes, musical direction by Andrés Gerszenzon and stage direction by Bea Odoriz, the Conjunto "Américas" and the Percussion Ensemble (both of the DAMus),a group of enthusiastic students led by María Belén Fos (Cinderella) and Luz Matas (Matroshka) gave of their best.

For Buenos Aires Herald                 

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