Cinderella, the Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House – reviewed on 13th April
Britain’s first full-length ballet, Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, was created over 60 years ago. It remains a firm favourite at the Royal Opera House, drawing in enthusiastic audiences who love its sparkle and charm. But for me, it’s almost sickly-sweet. Perhaps it is my cynicism, but why does Cinderella bear her cruel treatment with such grace? Surely at the very least she would be gritting her teeth?
Aside from these flaws of fairytale loveliness, Cinderella is enjoyable to watch. Prokofiev’s score is delightfully melodious and was played well under Pavel Sorokin’s baton. In the title role, Marianela Nuñez is captivating, if a little sugary. Simply born to dance Ashton’s fancy footwork, her quick bourées and jumps are fluid and light. Her entrance to the ball in Act 2 is stunning, as she makes her devilishly precarious descent down the stairs on pointe. In a gorgeous white tutu with a million sparkles, Nuñez appears in a state of utter disbelief, uncertain whether everything is real or just a dream. Thiago Soares as the prince is effortlessly regal. His jumps have imperceptibly soft landings and he glides through his steps with an infectious pleasure. Together they are unshakeably powerful and yet still soft and romantic.
The fairies of the seasons are charming as always. Yuhui Choe dances Summer with lyrical ease, but Hikaru Kobayahi shines brightest as a frosty and prickly Winter. Laura Morera is a pleasant Fairy Godmother. Ugly Sisters Alistair Marriott and Jonathan Howells – Ashton’s tribute to the pantomime dame – perform well, but their choreography is outdated and lacks the humour it once had. The corps de ballet are well-rehearsed and appealing to watch, particularly the Stars.
Overall, this is a ballet that does what it says on the tin. It tells a fairytale in the way that it was intended – with fun, sparkle and enchantment. With its short acts and easy-to-follow story, it’s perfect for young children. And amongst the many choreographers’ versions available, Ashton’s remains the classic. But I, personally, won’t be rushing back for more.