The American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House on Friday, June 9.
Countless little girls attended the American Ballet Theatre's performance of Cinderella Friday night, and I wonder what they thought of it. For those who only know Cinderella through Disney, Sergei Prokofiev's score might be something of a shock. Prokofiev, one of the masters of the twentieth century, was not a bibbidi-bobbidi-boo sort of composer, and he certainly didn't write anything for a chorus of shrill, squeaky mice. His Cinderella is darkly shaded, with some truly eerie moments. The midnight music, marking Cinderella's punishment for breaking curfew, sounds almost menacing, not physically so — this isn't a Grimm story with amputated toes and Hitchcockian birds — but psychologically. Prokofiev understands what it would mean to have the substance of your dreams vanish at the stroke of a clock.
James Kudelka's choreography, given its New York premiere by the American Ballet Theatre, beautifully captures Prokofiev's evocative music. Following the composer's lead, Kudelka eschews both the violent Grimm telling and the syrupy Disney version. His story has a haunting sense of fantasy, letting Cinderella's dreamworld seep into her reality, recede and then re-establish itself with greater strength and new maturity.