Fairytale princes can feel a bit machine-cut. Sure, they’re handsome (natch) and brave and romantic … but what are they really like?
In Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, the Prince has a distinct character, and you know it the moment he comes on stage. In the original Russian libretto for the ballet Cinderella, his entrance is described thus: “A young prince of military bearing dashes into the ballroom like a whirlwind. He seats himself on the throne like a horseman in the saddle, as though he’s about to goad his horse into a gallop.” Ratmansky follows this headlong description by having his white-suited Prince leap onto stage like a comet, performing a dazzling series of turns and jumps.
This exuberant Prince is every inch the rock star – complete with a sycophantic, Beatles-screaming court – but like Cinderella, he’s a world apart from the bitchy ball guests. Where they mock Cinderella’s naive dance, he is charmed by her lack of pretension.
Prokofiev’s music underscores how different the Prince is from his back-biting subjects. Chief Conductor and Music Director Nicolette Fraillon says, “[Prokofiev’s] intent was to present the royal court as inane – people who are oh so polite, but then stab you in the back. He does surprising things with rhythm and constantly uses unexpected instruments, or puts together instruments that might be expected – but in an unusual fashion, to tell you that this is not a world anyone should aspire to: woodwind with cello; contra bassoon and double bass, with little in between; colours which are really nasal and aggressive. There’s nothing pretty or elegant about it.”
On the other hand, says Nicolette, “the Prince’s melody is way more down to earth, heralded by trumpets and more traditional, noble brass writing. And every time it’s played it’s a beautiful sound, there’s nothing nasty or discordant about it.”
The Prince proves a tenacious lover. When Cinderella disappears, he searches the world for her (again, Ratmansky follows the original libretto, which has the Prince go on an odyssey through many different lands and temptations as he tries to find his lost love). In Ratmansky’s ballet the temptations come in both slinky female and exotic male form, but the Prince, though dallying briefly, doesn’t lose sight of his quest.
His reward? Why, the girl, of course!
And while the lovers’ final pas de deux hints at a future more complex than that standard-issue happy-ever-after – as well as euphoria and chemistry, it has shades of conflict and retreat, the hands and arms describing an intricate conversation – the romance of this Cinderella and Prince will surely be one of out of the box.
Fall in love with the Prince when Cinderella comes to Sydney this summer.