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on 21 April 2017
I have always believed that you " cannot improve on a masterpiece",,,[Akram kahn, please take note- .i.e. Giselle}-- but sometimes it is possible to show something of greater beauty in a masterpiece without distorting the ballet beyond all recognition,, Christopher Wheeldon has given us a masterpiece of his own in this magnificent version of Cinderella,,,giving us a greater insite into the original story,, and filling it out where other versions fail to do so,HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to any Ballet Fan who likes it as it should be......with dancers to match, I shall be returning to this time and time again.....and it will stand alongside the Birmingham Royal Ballet Disc......
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on 19 July 2017
Brilliant, imaginative interpretation. The Blu-ray presentation is top notch in all departments.
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on 25 August 2013
I noticed Christopher Wheeldon and became a fan of his brand of choreography and stage settings, props and the elaborate use of tech watching his production of Alice in Wonderland with the Royal Ballet. I bought this production of Cinderella immediately thanks to him, and yes, it was a visual extravaganza of the type that has never been seen before in a ballet like Cinderella. In fact the props and visuals surpass the Alice he did two/three years ago.

But those very elements have to a certain extent watered down the splendid dancing and choreography which one sometimes fails to notice thanks to the distraction of the virtual 3D sets and lighting.

If I were to make comparisons between the Cinderellas I have seen over the ages, there is the 'serious' intimate rather than lavish 1985 fairy tale version from the Bolshoi;
The Fredrick Ashton choreographed version starring Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell a slapsticky comedic thing with men for the ugly sisters;
The minimalist Paris version that disappointed horribly;A Morose Monte Carlo version;
And the last of all, the Royal Birmingham Ballet that was absolutely charming and the truest of all in terms of feeling and dancing like Cinderella in a wholesome way that we as kids read and dreamed about.

This production, with all the expensive gizmos paid for by San Francisco as well as Netherlands ballets has just about everything going for it, more money, far better solo dancers, a great conductor and orchestra, yet, is not just as pleasing as the other Blu ray from Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Let me try and explain in a little more detail

1. The Story and Liberetto -
Is a hotch-potch. They borrow from both the Grimm's version and the Proust and add some elements of their own and from Rossini's Cenerentola. To begin with, there is the Monte Carlo and Paris morose opening adaptation incorporated here that the music really does not support, that of a child Cinderella who loses her mother. Then the Kid Prince is then shown in the palace as well (with this production's version of Rossini's Dandini) growing up. In both these, the Kids have done a marvelous job. Enchanting, and not boring.

The Fairy God Mother is substituted by a protective tree of life and four shadows called fate that follow and aid Cinderella (she is not aware of them) and her inner spirit and feelings wherever she goes, all the time. Nice idea to show soaring emotions.
Then there are the sisters, only one really mean and the other forced to be (!) , but both adequately pretty. The Step mother (Kudos to Larissa Lezhnina, who can forget her from the Kirov days? She dances and acts wonderfully well in this one)... is adequately mean, and accompanies the kids to the ball. The King and the Queen are there too (these bits are new additions of their own, not seen in the other productions) with the courtiers and other elegant people.

Then comes the part that I just cant stand, the four foreign princesses at the ball, behaving as though they were on a meth high, badly portrayed and full of cheap, very cheap stuff to pass off for humour. This scene alone takes away a star from my ratings.

2. Choreography and Dancing
Wonderful. Wheeldon has shown his genius to the hilt here. The choreography is wonderful to watch and the complexity is dealt with excellently by the dancers. The dances are fantastic. All the duets, trios and those involving the soloists have been wonderfully thought of.

It is rare indeed to see a very palatable combination of the classic as well as the modern ballet dancing going hand in hand with brilliant results.

The dancers, especially the soloists are a treat to watch dancing to Wheeldon's and the Ballet Master's steps and combinations. Tsygankova's pedigree from the Bolshoi together with Vintage Kirov from Lezhnina... worth paying for. The men, especially Golding as the Prince are given very attractive dances which they perform to near perfection.
As was expected, the step-sisters are the true eye-catchers insofar as the steps, dances, rhythms and choreography allotted, and they have done a brilliant job... even better than the ones at Birmingham. The corps de ballet is what it is expected to be, but the choreography does justice to their movements and dancing.

3. Stagecraft and stuff
WHEW.... The props, the chandeliers, the trees, the screen effects, video projections are not just there with the latest MET production of the Ring, but tend to even surpass it at times. Surpass it to the point of distraction... like when a lovely dance by the soloists and the corps de ballet was going on, I was watching the effects with the tree... had to rewind to see the dances.

4. Excellent conducting (am a big fan of Ermanno Florio for ballet) and well balanced audio recording. The blu ray video is as good as is it expected to be.

In the entire Jing-Bang, I think poor Prokofiev lost out just a little here and there. Balletomanes may call triumph of dance bending music to its ends, but overall, sometimes it jars a bit to see pure slapstick done to music that was meant to represent something else. I make this humble submission only with respect to the treatment of themes in the Bolshoi 1985 version, which is reportedly the closest to what Prokofiev and his contemporaries had envisaged while producing this work.

All the same, it is a very good purchase. You wont be disappointed one bit.
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on 30 December 2013
This DVD is a film of Christopher Wheeldon's new version of Prokofiev's Cinderella, danced by Dutch National Ballet, one of the top companies in Europe. The editing and filming give the feeling of a very pretty production, with some lovely special effects. There are a number of changes to the usual English pantomime story of Cinderella, which are explained by Chris Wheeldon in an extra feature. These include a fuller back-story for the Prince and a happy ending for the nicer ugly sister. I felt these mostly worked well.
So what's not to like? To me, it wasn't as clear as it should be that Cinderella saves herself by her kindness to one worse off than herself, something I feel is very important in the traditional narrative. I felt that the leading ballerina did not really achieve the character of Cinderella, but seemed too feisty and too mature. I didn't feel that the choreography of the pas de deux between the prince and Cinderella in the ballroom was as good as it needed to be for this key moment in the ballet. IMO, the second act drags a little. I have to agree with another of the reviews: if you can only buy one version, get Bintley's with the BRB, it's tighter in structure and the leading couple are better suited to their roles.
But I'm glad I bought this and I shall be watching it again when want a light, cheerful ballet to entertain me after a stressful day.
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on 18 September 2013
Christopher Wheeldon's take on 'Cinderella' brings a new focus to Cinderella herself, and illumines the story imaginatively. Taking elements from the Grimm brothers' version of the tale, Wheeldon replaces the Fairy Godmother of Perrault's version with four Fates, danced by four men, who emerge from the tree which grows over Cinderella's mother's grave, watered by her tears. These four spirits accompany her virtually throughout the ballet, and provide some stunning choreographic pictures. The sisters are also re-created in a new way: we lose the pantomime dame approach of Ashton (which is delightful, but not really repeatable) in favour of two young, attractive girls who are also, like Cinderella, caught in a second marriage. The stepmother is still undeniably the bitch of old (apologies to dogs), as is one of the sisters, but the other, younger, sister is actually sympathetic to Cinderella, and tries to show it even when forced to be unkind through her older sister's and mother's bullying tactics. In a new twist (spoiler here!) the young sister also finds a lover in the Prince's friend, and so there are two happy endings.

Anna Tsygankova as Cinderella is a captivating dancer -- strong, delicate, elegant, and coltish by turns -- with a blazing technique combining the tensility of her Russian training and the characterizing suppleness of her later European career. It would be a treat to see her dance Nikiya or Kitri one day. Matthew Golding as the prince (also given a back-story for the first time) is strong and technically excellent, with a fine bravura line in his leaps. My only qualification (and it is not his fault) is that the occasional close-ups don't do him any favours: he has a generalized expression showing profound emotion which makes him look slightly agonized, and his California surfer looks don't help. But some coaching will help the expressions, I expect, and his dancing really is very fine indeed.

The sets and costumes, with intelligent and unobtrusive use of projections, are spectacular, and the use of the stage, with some telling diagonal rows of columns in the court scenes, is expansive and continually engages the eye. In the end it is the choreography which tells. Wheeldon's earlier works like 'Commedia' and 'Fool's Paradise' (and when are we to have a film of them, please?) made on his earlier company Morphoses, showed him to be a choreographer of depth and breathtaking versatility; in 'Cinderella, Christopher Wheeldon is showing his mettle again as he only hinted at doing in his 'Alice in Wonderland'. However delightful Alice is (and it certainly is) it relies far more on staging and props to make its effects, putting the dancing somewhat in the background on occasion. 'Cinderella', by contrast, is a dancer's ballet, and is utterly brilliant. The pas de deuxs here are characterful and glittering, the dancers' handling their considerable difficulties with aplomb and taking the movements into their characters in a way too infrequently seen. Even the smallest parts are finely cast, with the Dutch company providing their ingrained intelligence and dramatic sense to the whole. Finally, the comedic bits are not overdone or mawkish, as they so often can be, but are genuinely amusing.

I love Ashton's 'Cinderella', and will never let it go, but Christopher Wheeldon's is a masterly new look at the piece. Its nearest colleague is probably Jean-Christoff Maillot's 'Cinderella' for his Ballet de Monte Carlo, which takes the story into greater psychological depth -- especially in the relationship between Cinderella and her father -- but lacks the warmth of Wheeldon's portraiture. Nureyev's 'Hollywood' re-working for the Paris Opera Ballet, despite its superb dancing and a heart-breaking first act with Agnes Letestu in the lead first danced by Sylvie Guillem, is over-produced and slightly camp. Anyone who loves the old tale of the girl who is brought from the ashes to the palace will find much to enjoy in Ashton's Royal Ballet version, Maillot's with Monte Carlo, David Bintley's with the Royal Birmingham -- and now, perhaps to crown them all, Christopher Wheeldon's magical, captivating, and wholehearted ballet. Most highly recommended.
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on 20 August 2013
This is a production with a capital P. Stagecraft is all but shunned. Sensibly, ballet companies cut costs by sharing or co-producing expensive full-length ballets like this, and this production was later given by San Francisco Ballet. Nowadays you have a tough job finding a Cinderella not choreographed to Sergei Prokofiev's 1945 ballet music of the same name. Wheeldon's is no exception. The libretto here, by Craig Lucas, making use of the original Grimm tale, is crammed with details and leaves no note uninterpreted. There is a tree of life, and the prince (here named Guillaume) dresses as a vagrant to get to know girls. In an extended sort of prologue, the main protagonists are brought to the stage as children first. And here things start to feel uncomfortable. To put it simply, Prokofiev's ouverture goes `from sad to hopeful' and in that `hopeful' Cinderella's mother dies, ignoring the mood of the music. After that, two naughty kids are seen running around in a palace. They are Guillaume and a friend, Benjamin, chased by a nanny before being told off by the king. Only after this are we introduced to the kitchen of Cinderella and her father, stepmother, stepsisters Edwina and Clementine and ... The Mummenschanz - for Cinderella is permanently accompanied by masked dancers in black, as if the Swiss mimes were written into the show as guest artists. To some purpose unknown to me they lift her, help her wriggle, contort - like MacMillan's Manon and partners on steroids. Cinderella meets her Guillaume (as clochard) and, without the benefit of a Fairy Godmother, makes it to the ball. The seasons are an odd bunch, but the couch is a feat of imaginative strength. At the ball, Guillaume enters drunk. Foreign guests are given the idiot treatment and as a coloured guy, I feel much more offended seeing this than by the Bolshoi smearing children's faces black for a 19th century ballet - heavily commented upon recently. While I like the way the stepsisters are drawn up -naturalistic and nuanced, rather than physically horrid creatures- at the ball it goes awry, and like Guillaume and their mother (also drunk), they resort to cheap humor (intentional kicks no one would resort to at a ball). Cinderella's ball entrance is handled in a traditional way. As in Ashton's version, the corps de ballet is involved in her hurried exit. Back in the kitchen, the action usually lingers, no exception here. The Mummenschanz aid Cinderella even as she puts on the slipper, but fail to be part of the big celebration under the tree of life, where all ends in happiness.
The production is designed by Julian Crouch. I think of his work as uneven: The Mummenschanz appear to have brought their own costumes, while The Lloyd Webber-like ball scene, exploding in purple, navy, burgundy and dark green is possibly designed to have Cinderella stand out in yellow. Awkward, for prior to the yellow you have to process a lot of information (many characters interacting), and said dark costumes combined with a darkly lit floor (alternating red with purple) are hard on the eyes. Since this is about a ballet I can't escape commenting on steps. Christopher Wheeldon, successfully choreographing his way through the world, is credited as being influenced by Balanchine, but after having seen quite a few of his works I don't agree. His ballets expose him as an inheritor of Ashton and MacMillan (both British). Small example: In 'DGV: danse à grande vitesse' (New York City Ballet), to me Wheeldon's best ballet, the ladies are sirens capably handled by strong men - but for no reason interrupting their mellifluous movements with a sharply pointed fourth position. Admittedly, Prokofiev's wry lyricism is not easy, but what stands out here is the sad fact that Cinderella's music seems to elude Wheeldon completely. Cinderella's vocabulary consists of a never-ending wriggling from one side to another, her fashionable seaweedy port de bras becoming tedious. Crescendi in the big pas de deux are ignored, or merely used for small or transitional steps. The Seasons' variations are clumsy. The dances for the court are Wheeldon's best (ironically at odds with their costumes): The corps de ballet dances sweeping numbers and the shoepassing line is effective. For the brave dancers almost nothing but praise. Anna Tsygankova, a little cold, makes up for that with perfect technique and dynamics. Her partner, Matthew Golding, probably makes the best turns in the world, so he could do with ditching his sour expression. With her role as Stepmother former Kirov dancer Larissa Lezhnina had to change from ingenue to elderly lady. A not too smooth transition, for a Western company can hardly ever provide one with the repertory to facilitate it. Nadia Yanowsky and especially Megan Zimny-Gray are doing a fine job on the sisters. Smaller roles are cast well, and the corps de ballet is very good, revealing Het Nationale Ballet in excellent shape. So, if you are a none too discerning ballet fan, sheer good dancing is your thing or want to treat your kid to a glimpse into the ballet world present tense, this is your blu-ray. If you look for good choreography and production -and still want Wheeldon- I suggest you go for The Royal Ballet's 'Alice in Wonderland:' Wheeldon reacted infinitely better to Lewis Carroll's slightly unsettling classic.
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on 15 June 2016
I really wanted to enjoy this, but, sadly did not. The story is well known, but, in this production the symbolism was often difficult to follow. Just exactly what was going on under the tree, when Cinderella was being prepared for the ball was a mystery. I found the production bewildering rather than bewitching.
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on 11 January 2014
Christopher Wheeldon really has a winner with this ballet. Like his 'Alice in Wonderland' the touches of humour are masterful. My only small criticism would be with Matthew Golding as Prince Guillaume in that his smile looked more like a grimace as though he was in pain. Perhaps he was.
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on 5 March 2016
Wonderful performance. Magical stage effects, supreme dancing and imaginative reworking of the story. Christopher Wheeldon's choreography is sublime. Highly recommended.
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on 13 May 2016
Magnificent production en great reworking of the story with more attention for the story of the prince and with a lot humor without loss of authenticity and glamour.
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