February 23 - March 4, 2012
From February 23-March 4, 2012, Houston Ballet presents Stanton Welch’s staging of Cinderella, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s classic score. A fresh new take on the familiar tale, Cinderella features lavish scenery and spectacular costumes by the late New Zealand designer Kristian Fredrickson. In Mr. Welch’s staging, Cinderella is no downtrodden waif, but a gutsy tomboy who stands up for herself to fight against her stepsisters, and in the end chooses love over money in a twist to suit the 21st century.
The story has been a favorite for generations, but make no mistake, this is not your childhood Cinderella. More tomboy than princess, Stanton Welch’s title character is a striking woman of substance, determination and spunk. She’s in control, fighting the oppression and will of her evil stepmother with wit and vigor. And when she finds true love she grabs it – and wisely holds on with both hands.
Houston Ballet presented the American premiere of Mr. Welch’s production of Cinderella in February 2008. Writing in Arts Houston Magazine in April 2008, critic Nancy Wozny pronounced the work “one rousing and very relevant ballet,” observing, “Welch combined pathos, following the dark tenor of Prokofiev’s score, with sharp wit and full bodied characters….Kristian Fredrikson’s glorious storybook setting and luscious parade of gold-trimmed black gowns kept the thread alive.”
“Cinderella is a special story, and this version in particular, as it carries a wonderful lesson for young and old alike in realizing that beauty is only skin deep. I love that Cinderella falls for the prince's footman instead of the handsome prince, whose pompous, arrogant personality makes him very unattractive. I think our culture is obsessed with looks now more than ever. In reality it is how a person acts and handles themselves that truly makes them beautiful. I find it rewarding to share this important message through a ballet that touches so many of our emotions; from comedy and new love to the sweet sentiment she holds for her mother,” comments Houston Ballet Principal Amy Fote, who performed the role in 2008.
Ms. Fote continues, “One of the challenges for me in this version of Cinderella is that she is a tomboy where I am naturally more feminine. In order to make this believable I need to pay extra special attention to my walk and mannerisms, as they are definitely not second nature. Also, I am fighting with my step-sisters, who are played by men in our company. Although a lot of it is acting, the fight scenes take a tremendous amount of strength in order to make them look real.”
The music of Serge Prokofiev’s famous score for Cinderella inspired Mr. Welch to choreograph the ballet. “I first fell in love with Cinderella through its music. I was able to find a story of my own through the Prokofiev score, without seeing a ballet version until much later,” he observed.
During the spring of 2012, Houston Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of music director Ermanno Florio, will perform two of the greatest ballet scores in the twentieth century, with performances of Cinderella February 24 – March 3, 2012 and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet June 7 – 17, 2012.
“The music for Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet represents the pinnacle of symphonic full length story ballets,” comments Maestro Florio. “Prokofiev’s use of orchestral colors and his wonderful melodies not only help define the style and feel of the period in which the ballets take place, but also with the use of leitmotifs, he helps define the soul and personalities of each character.”
In fashioning his scenario for the ballet which he originally created for The Australian Ballet in 1997, Mr. Welch drew upon several interpretations of Cinderella: the Brothers Grimm’s dark fairy tale version Aschenputtel (“ash girl”), Gioacchino Rossini’s famous 1817 opera, and the traditional English pantomime version of Cinderella, with its lovable servant, Buttons.
It was his brother Damien who indirectly inspired Stanton Welch to re-conceive the traditional version of Cinderella. Damien was appearing in The Australian Ballet School as Dandini, the Prince's assistant. “I just didn't like the prince,” Mr. Welch remembers, laughing. “I thought that she should marry his valet Dandini.”
At the end of Mr. Welch’s staging, Cinderella finds true love not with the handsome, narcissistic prince, but with his mild-mannered valet, Dandini. “I think that the subtle, implicit message of the traditional Cinderella story -- that someone will magically appear to rescue you from a bad situation – is not a great message to send to a young child. It’s about standing up for yourself, making your own decisions, choosing your own path, your own love,” commented Mr. Welch.
The production includes lavish wigs and 207 sumptuous costumes using materials ranging from silk, lace and laser fabrics to heavy tweed, stretch denim and lycra. Mr. Fredrickson also created a series of lavish and spectacular ball gowns for the stepmother and the stepsisters, who are portrayed by men who dance on pointe.
Age Recommendation: at least 2 years of age.
Pictured: Cinderella, Dancer: Katharine Precourt. Photo by: Amitava Sarkar.