Cinderella (Prokofiev)

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Cinderella (Russian: Золушка, Zolushka) is a ballet, Op. 87, composed by Sergei Prokofiev to a scenario by Nikolai Volkov. It is one of his most popular and melodious compositions, and has inspired a great many choreographers since its inception. The piece was composed between 1940 and 1944. Part way through writing it he broke off to write his opera War and Peace. The premiere of Cinderella was conducted by Yuri Fayer on November 21, 1945, at the Bolshoi Theatre with choreography by Rostislav Zakharov.[1] Galina Ulanova danced the title role. Cinderella (or Cendrillon) is notable for its jubilant music, lush scenery, and for the comic double-roles of the stepsisters (which can be performed in travesty), more mad than bad in this treatment.

Story[edit]

Act 1

As the ballet opens, Cinderella is seen helping her step-mother and two step-sisters to prepare for the Spring Ball, at which it is rumoured that the Prince will choose his bride. Though the two sisters are working together to produce a new shawl, they get into an argument over who will wear it and end up tearing it in two. Cinderella is then left alone to clear up the remnants and finish preparations. Since her mother's death and her father's remarriage, she has been reduced to little more than a servant in her own home, and though her father is concerned for her, he is just as much under the step-mother's control as Cinderella herself is. Their brief peace is interrupted, however, as the mother and sisters reenter and begin ordering them about. During supper, a beggar woman turns up, asking for shelter. The sisters and mother try to chase her off, but Cinderella offers her a place by the kitchen fire and an old pair of slippers. The beggar thanks her for her kindness and departs, leaving the preparations to resume. After choosing dresses and a quick dancing lesson, the family finally sets off for the ball with the father reluctantly in tow, leaving Cinderella behind. Although lonely at first, she cheers herself up by dancing with her broom, imagining the Prince himself has asked her for a dance. She is surprised when the beggar woman reenters to return the slippers with her thanks. However, to Cinderella's amazement they have been turned into dancing slippers of glass. The beggar woman reveals herself as Cinderella's fairy godmother, come to grant her wish of going to the ball. Summoning the fairies of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, she turns Cinderella's rags into a beautiful dress, a pumpkin and mice into a carriage and horses, and grasshoppers and dragonflies into a retinue of footmen. As she is about to leave, the fairy godmother warns her that the spell will only last until midnight, at which time everything will revert to its original form. Only the glass slippers will remain as a gift for her kindness. She then summons twelve dwarves, who will appear to warn her if she has not left by midnight. With this warning in mind, Cinderella departs for the ball.

Act 2

The Spring Ball is in full swing with guests arriving from all over the kingdom and beyond. The two step-sisters attempt to impress the royal court with their dancing skills, but have less than successful results, to their mother's dismay. The Prince then joins the celebrations, but being reluctant to enter a marriage without love, he declines any offers for a dance. At this point, Cinderella arrives at the ball, transformed beyond recognition. The Prince, along with everyone else, is entranced by her beauty and charm, and for the first time that evening, asks for a dance. As the evening passes, the two become inseparable, and when refreshments are served he gives her the honour of taking one of three oranges, the kingdom's finest delicacy. Cinderella offers the other two oranges to her step-sisters, who are so flattered that they do not recognize the beautiful stranger as their sister. The Prince takes Cinderella out to the royal gardens, where they dance and realise the love blossoming between them. As they return to the ballroom for the next waltz, Cinderella has completely forgotten about the time in her happiness. However, at the first stroke of midnight, the twelve dwarves spring from the great palace clock and remind Cinderella of her godmother's warning. Terrified of being unmasked, she flees from the ballroom, and though the Prince pursues her, she vanishes into the night, losing a glass slipper in her haste and panic. The Prince is heartbroken at the thought of losing his love so soon after discovering her, but upon finding the lost slipper, he vows not to rest until he has found her again.

Act 3

The Prince summons every shoemaker in the kingdom in order to find out who the slipper was made for. However, none of them claim to have crafted the shoe, or sold it to anybody, and he concludes that the princess must be from a foreign land. After travelling across the world and meeting princesses with no success, the Prince begins to search his own kingdom, trying the slipper on every maiden who attended the ball. Back at Cinderella's home, we find that love has allowed the Prince to defy the laws of time and space; though it is only the morning after the ball, he has already traveled the world and back again in search of his love. Upon waking, Cinderella initially believes that the events of the previous night were only a dream, but as she relives some of the dances of the ball, she discovers the remaining glass slipper and realizes that it was all true. At breakfast, the step-sisters reminisce about the ball, and argue about who made the greater impression on the Prince at the ball, but are interrupted when the father and step-mother hurry in with the news that the Prince is on his way to their house, desperately trying a glass slipper on every girl he encounters. Upon his arrival, he tries the slipper on the two step-sisters, but to no avail. The step-mother, however, demands to be given a chance and tries to force her foot into the shoe, ordering Cinderella to help her. As she bends down to assist, the remaining slipper falls from her pocket, and the Prince finally recognizes Cinderella for who she is. Overjoyed, the two are transported away to a secret garden by the fairy godmother, where they confess their love for one another and are married.

Sequence of Numbers[edit]

Act I 
No 1 Introduction
No 2 Shawl Dance
No 3 Cinderella
No 4 The Father
No 5 The Fairy Godmother
No 6 The Sisters' New Clothes
No 7 The Dancing Lesson
No 8 Departure of the Stepmother and the Sisters for the Ball
No 9 Cinderella Dreams of the Ball
No 10 Gavotte
No 11 Second Appearance of the Fairy Godmother
No 12 Spring Fairy
No 13 Summer Fairy
No 14 Grasshoppers and Dragonflies
No 15 Autumn Fairy
No 16 Winter Fairy
No 17 The Interrupted Departure
No 18 The Clock
No 19 Cinderella's Departure for the Ball
Act II
No 20 Dance of the Courtiers
No 21 Passepied
No 22 Bourrée
No 23 Skinny's Variation
No 24 Dumpy's Variation
No 25 Dance of the Courtiers (Reprise)
No 26 Mazurka and Entrance of the Prince
No 27 Dance of the Prince's Four Companions
No 28 Mazurka
No 29 Cinderella's Arrival at the Ball
No 30 Grand Waltz
No 31 Promenade
No 32 Cinderella's Dance
No 33 Dance of the Prince
No 34 Refreshments for the Guests
No 35 Duet of the Sisters with the Oranges (musical quote from the 1919 opera L'amour des trois oranges)
No 36 Duet of the Prince and Cinderella
No 37 Waltz-Coda
No 38 Midnight
Act III, Scene I

The search for Cinderella

No 39 The Prince and the Cobblers
No 40 First Galop of the Prince
No 41 Temptation
No 42 Second Galop of the Prince
No 43 Orientalia
No 44 Third Galop of the Prince
Act III, Scene II

The Prince with Cinderella

No 45 Cinderella's Awakening
No 46 The Morning After the Ball
No 47 The Prince's Visit
No 48 The Prince Recognizes Cinderella
No 49 Slow Waltz
No 50 Amoroso

Piano Suites[edit]

Music for the ballet, published before its première

  • Three Pieces for Cinderella, Op. 95 (1942)
  • Ten Pieces for Cinderella, Op. 97 (1943)
  • Six Pieces for Cinderella, Op. 102 (1944)

Orchestral Suites[edit]

Extracts from Cinderella authorized by the composer

  • Suite No. 1 from Cinderella, Op. 107
  • Suite No. 2 from Cinderella, Op. 108
  • Suite No. 3 from Cinderella, Op. 109

Trivia[edit]

  • Cinderella's stepsisters are sometimes played by men
  • In the story Cinderella there is no beggar, or seasonal fairies
  • The glass slipper is played by a regular ballet slipper

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]