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Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Cinderella (Aschenbrödel) - ballet in 3 Acts (1899)
Choreography by Renato Zanella
Orchestral score by Joseph Bayer
Vienna State Ballet and Orchestra/Michael Halász
rec. live, Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna, 21-22 December 1999
Region 0; Ratio 4:3
EUROARTS 2055928 [122:00]  

Just over a year before Johann Strauss II died he had decided to write a ballet. A Viennese newspaper had offered a prize of 4,000 crowns for its libretto. Its winner provided a modern version of the traditional Cinderella story. Strauss started work on the new score in the summer of 1898 yet died before it was complete. Bayer was invited to prepare a full score from Strauss’s surviving material. 

In the final production, the synopsis has been adapted to bring in Strauss himself, dressed in a gold suit that reminds one of the statue in Vienna’s Stadtpark. The Cinderella storyline is cleverly modified to provide for the ‘immortal’ Strauss in gilt suit descending on a cloud to direct the events that take place in a traditional Cinderella story. Here he replaces the fairy godmother. 

In Act I we find ourselves in a fashion designer’s studio with numerous seamstresses aiming to please a lanky gorgon (male dancer in drag) who is dissatisfied with the paltry work of Cinderella. It is Strauss who rescues Cinderella from employment as an underrated fashion designer and transports her to the Ball. At the Ball the Prince presents Cinderella with a pair of crystal slippers, a departure from the normal routine. At the end of the Ball he carries her aloft in his cloud: she then drops one of the crystal slippers from the ascending cloud to the Prince below, in his memory. This variation from the traditional story is effective and works admirably. 

Bayer’s score is a very acceptable and starts with an excellent Prelude that opens into an equally effective Prologue. Throughout, there is a good transitional flow of mood even if most of the music is in 3/4 or 6/8 waltz time. The central ball-scene (Act II) provides an excuse for a string of virtuosic solo dance routines. This nicely sets off the comical portrayal of the ugly sisters who exhaust their partners.

The orchestra under Halász’s direction is strong, well balanced and nicely recorded under what may have been adverse live conditions outside the studio. 

Following its 1901 premiere, the work was revived in 1919, 1927 and 1979. Just as Strauss had intended the story to be set in their own modern times, for this production by Zanella, a decision was taken to set the story in vogue with 1999 fashion. Christian Lacroix, a bridal wear costumier, was approached to give the production a bold face. His use of garish colour and eccentric costume design features give the stage much visual impact. His settings are deliberately muted, seemingly to throw forward and exaggerate the effect of the costumes. It works and retains one’s focus on the characters and on the excellent choreography. 

Raymond J Walker 



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