On 16 July, the husband-and-wife principal couple of Anastasia Soboleva and Viktor Lebedev, along with Ekaterina Borchenko and the dancers of the Mikhailovsky Ballet, performed the magical ballet of Cinderella for the last time this season.
Since its publication in 1697, in French, Charles Perrault’s Cinderella story has become a familiar motif within world media and culture. We all know numerous film and theatre interpretations of Cinderella, including the ballet composed by Sergei Prokofiev, which is one of the most popular musical creations for the ballet genre in the twentieth century.
The score, which has inspired a great many choreographers, was composed between 1940 and 1944. The first staging of the ballet was presented in 1945, at the Bolshoi Theatre, with choreography by Rostislav Zakharov, and with Olga Lepeshinskaya and Galina Ulanova alternating in the main role.
Audiences around the world have since seen the productions of Prokofiev’s Cinderella by such masters as Ashton, Nureyev, Ratmansky, Wheeldon, Bourne, Neumeier and many others. All these versions showed various facets of the Cinderella story.
Mikhail Messerer’s version was conceived in 2017 for the Mikhailovsky Theatre, where he has also created acclaimed revivals of other legendary ballets such as Laurencia, The Flames of Paris, La Fille mal gardée, Coppélia, The Little Humpbacked Horse, to name but a few. His Cinderella is based on the 1945 Bolshoi production and was dedicated to Zakharov’s 110th anniversary. With its use of digital as well as traditional sets, combined with the classical atmosphere, the production evokes a magical feeling of youth, full of hopes and dreams.
The spectacular choreography and classical technique - with big jumps and complex tour-de-forces, small terre-a-terre steps and the grace of arabesques - look absolutely right in the fairy tale, and is alluring to both adult and very young spectators alike. The dynamic variations of fairies, the dancing sparkling stars in the first act, the waltzes, romantic duets of the principal couple, vivid mazurka and exotic dances in the third act, create the festive image of the piece.
The sets and costumes contain glorious traits of Roccoco, with its lightness and curve of ornaments, including the intricately inscribed numbers on the dial of the giant clock, and even Cinderella’s sparkling pointe shoes in the ball scene.
Fragile and weightless Soboleva, dancing tenderly in the Pas de Deux and courageously flying above the stage in her solo jumps, seems a perfect Cinderella - dreamy and romantic. Viktor Lebedev looks very convincing in his variations and coda, with confident pirouettes and grand jeté. Soboleva and Lebedev seem very natural together, a classical ballet’s ideal Princess and Prince.
The Mikhailovsky ballerina Ekaterina Borchenko is an amazing Fairy Godmother: tall, gracious, and with perfect hands and noblesse onstage.
Davide Loricchio (the Jester) is slim, light, athletic and brilliant in the acrobatic part, whilst acting in a charming and humorous way.
With its visible lightness and attention to detail, typical for all the ballets staged by Messerer, this Cinderella enthralls both the ‘experienced’ ballet public and the spectators at the start of their journey of attraction to classical dance.
This is a classical fairy tale reimagined with a twenty-first century feel. Here, the lineage of Soviet ballet meets the best traditions of magical storytelling and exemplary choreography, enhanced by state-of-the-art digital sets and visual special effects.
Text: Julia Sumzina
Photos: Stas Levshin