Sunday,  Sep 23, 2018,22:44 (GMT+7) 0 0
Cinderella again graces the Saigon stage
Bradley Winterton
Monday,  Apr 2, 2018,23:21 (GMT+7)

Cinderella again graces the Saigon stage

Bradley Winterton

A scene in the “Cinderella” ballet - PHOTO: HBSO

I’ve said it before and I’m more than happy to say it again – the HBSO’s full-length ballet Cinderella is one of the finest things you’ll see anywhere in the world. It’s being revived in the Saigon Opera House on April 7 and 8, beginning at 8 p.m.

Sergei Prokofiev completed the music in 1945, and his version immediately took the lead over earlier versions. “I tried to paint the different characters,” he said. “Cinderella gentle and dreamy, the father fearful, the step-mother quick-tempered, the sisters selfish, the young prince full of passion, in such a way that the spectators cannot but share their joy and their sorrow.”

The Norwegian choreographer Johanne Jakhelln Constant created Saigon’s version in 2013 as part of the Norway-Vietnam cooperation program known as ‘Transposition’, and it has frequently been revived. This isn’t surprising in the slightest as it’s an absolute delight from start to finish.

The role of Cinderella will be danced by Tran Hoang Yen, the recipient of gold and silver medals at various Vietnamese dance festivals. The Prince will be danced by Japanese dancer Nobuo Fujino, uniquely appealing if his performance in the same role last year was anything to go by.

Working as assistant choreographer will be HBSO’s Nguyen Phuc Hung, while his brother and co-choreographer Nguyen Phuc Hai will on this occasion be in charge of the lighting, an important feature of this production. The stage manager will be Nguyen Manh Duy Linh, who is also a prominent composer of contemporary music.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this production, but I do know it’s impossible to see it too often. The music may be pre-recorded, but this is no disadvantage. In fact it has a major plus, that it can be heard with equal clarity and loudness in any seat in the Opera House auditorium.

There are so many things to love about this production. If the main one is the ballroom scene, with Cinderella’s dances with the Prince, and culminating in the ominous twelve strokes of midnight, then that’s nothing surprising. But also intensely beautiful are the two scenes that take place in some sort of natural dream world, a mystic field where fairies and the Fairy Godmother (danced as always by Chloe Glemot) interact with other characters in the age-old story.

There are many versions of the Cinderella story. In a different version, for instance, the Prince travels his realm looking for someone with feet small enough to let them wear his special shoe. In the version used by Prokofiev, he comes to Cinderella’s house after the ball, looking for the second shoe that will match the one his unknown partner left behind when she fled on the strokes of midnight.

Prokofiev can now be seen as the heir to a long Russian tradition of musical theater. His operas War and Peace (based on Tolstoy’s famous novel), The Love for Three Oranges and The Fiery Angel, his ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, and his “symphonic fairy-tale for children” Peter and the Wolf are all well-known, but there were many others.

He’s sometimes been compared to his near-contemporary Dmitri Shostakovich. But whereas Shostakovich was introverted, frequently sardonic, and almost torn apart by the political situation he found himself unavoidably enmeshed in, Prokofiev was flamboyant, hugely drawn to work for the stage, and influenced by French music. He lived abroad much of his life, but returned to Russia in 1936, and died in 1953 on the same day as Joseph Stalin.

It goes without saying, then, that this revival of HBSO’s Cinderella is something that shouldn’t be missed.

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