Drama in three acts
Libretto by Alexey Miroshnichenko
Premiere was taken place in Perm in 2016
A new version of Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella staged by Alexey Miroshnichenko, the principal ballet master of the theatre. In his new production he keeps thinking of the culture and aesthetics of the Soviet past. All choreography is absolutely new, but corresponds to the chosen times.
Alexey Miroshnichenko, the principal ballet master of Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre:
— The interest to the "Soviet past" doesn't get weak. It's obvious that this collective experience has still being realised. And as soos as this process hasn't been finished yet, we can't go futher. We tried to make it up with the 1930s lately, now we've been making it up with the 1950s.
The idea of putting the ballet action in the 1950s and in unusual environment belongs to Teodor Currentzis.
Vera Nadezhdina, young ballerina
Francois Renard, principal dancer of the Opéra de Paris
Yuri Zvezdochkin, young choreographer
Olga Svistokrylova, prima ballerina
Irina Sheneshkina, honoured artist, friend of Svistokrylova
Olympiada Prisyadkina, winner of the newspaper For Soviet Art prize, friend of Svistokrylova
Yakov Aronovich Feiman, Uncle Yasha, master ballet shoe craftsman
Minister of Culture
Director of the Theatre
Head of the Company
Fitters and tailors, costumier, massage therapists, Party members, cultural workers, foreigners
The action takes place in 1957, in Moscow, during the World Youth and Student Festival
Year 1957. Moscow is hosting the World Youth and Student Festival. Preparations are underway at the Main Theatre for the premiere of the ballet Cinderella.
A famous ballet master arrives at the morning class to select dancers for the new performance. In attendance are the theatre’s prima ballerina Olga Svistokrylova, honoured artists Sheneshkina and Prisyadkina, many famous soloists as well as young performers. Amongst them is Vera Nadezhdina, who is new to the theatre.
During the casting, the ballet master is drawn to one dancer in particular who is standing to one side chatting to a friend; the dancer in question is Nadezhdina. Offended and annoyed, the director leaves the class. In the corridor of the ballet floor, everyone is crowded around the blackboard, on which the cast list of the performance is displayed. Vera does not see her name on the list and is very upset. A group of comrades all wearing formal suits appears in the corridor: it is the Minister of Culture accompanied by Francois Renard, the principal dancer of the Opéra de Paris, whom they invited to dance in the premiere at the Main Theatre. Everyone watches the ‘star’ with interest.
Svistokrylova, the theatre’s indignant prima ballerina appears. The costume fitting for the new ballet has been unsuccessful and the ballerina makes a hysterical scene in front of the entire collective.
This is most apparent to Yakov Aronovich Feiman — the eldest ballet shoe master craftsman. He is known to everyone in the company as Uncle Yasha. The pointe shoes which Uncle Yasha prepared for Svistokrylova hurtle toward his head. He is crippled by humiliation. Everyone leaves.
Left alone, Vera goes to comfort Uncle Yasha. Francois appears, he has got lost in the theatre couloirs and bumps into Vera by accident. He really likes her. The young performers exchange greetings. Run off their feet, at last the chaperones track down Francois. He is due for an urgent fitting after which he must go straight to rehearsal.
In attendance at the rehearsal is the USSR Minister of Culture, comrades from the ministry and numerous press photographers. The rehearsal is not going smoothly. Francois does not like either the choreography or his partner and he refuses to dance the ballet.
Everyone is utterly bewildered. The Minister consults with the Director of the Theatre. He is totally confounded: there is a young choreographer, Yuri Zvezdochkin in the group, but persuading him to take on the direction of such a large-scale performance at such short notice… The Minister of Culture issues a command to appoint Zvezdochkin. It’s an order. Taken aback by the unexpected turn of events, Yuri Zvezdochkin must begin rehearsing immediately. No one in the company believes he will be able to pull it off and he doesn’t want his efforts to have been in vain. Only Vera is prepared to work with the young ballet master. One after the other, he demonstrates the sequences to Vera, and it works out wonderfully. Francois approves of the new choreography and is once again willing to take part in the performance. Gradually the artists start to engage with the creative process. Everything unfolds as in a dream.
Before Zvezdochkin knew it, he was being ordered to demonstrate a sequence from the performance to the commission from the Ministry of Culture. Surprisingly, the majority of the arts council like what Yuri stages. The final word from the Minister of Culture: the Minister is enraptured. The commission votes in favour of the performance. This is the hour of new choreography and choreographers!
The long-awaited day of the premiere. The stage is set as a ballroom. The set and costumes are reminiscent of the magnificent rococo epoch. Present are numerous court ladies and knights, livery servants, ushers and of course the Prince. Put simply, a true fairytale! Playing the role of stepmother is Olga Svistokrylova, while the parts of her daughters are played by Olympiada Prisyadkina and Irina Sheneshkina. Francois, naturally, dances the part of the Prince, while the role of Cinderella is given to Vera Nadezhdina.
Vera warms up backstage. Uncle Yasha appears and wishes her luck, praises her on her debut and asks if she will put on the shoes he has brought with him. The young dancer gratefully accepts the gift. With bated breath and a feeling of holy reverence she prepares to cross the threshold which separates behind the scenes from the stage.
Spectators and dancers are in awe of Cinderella: first they are stunned by the charm and grace with which she dances, second they see in Vera the dignity of a true ballerina. One after the other the dance sequences unfold, and before long it is time for the first duet between Cinderella and the Prince. Vera and Francois almost don’t need to act — their dance is filled with genuine emotion. The performance is coming to an end. It is a resounding success. No one expected such a triumph: a new choreographer has appeared in the USSR. Carrying bouquets, the heads of the party and the government gather on the stage. There is wave upon wave of congratulations… The government representatives issue an important message: following on from the festival, the Main Theatre troupe are to go on a tour abroad.
The mood is positively jubilant. This is the theatre’s first foreign tour. Most excited of all are Vera and Francois, since this means that they won’t be separated for long, and Francois will show Vera one of the most romantic cities in the world — Paris.
A moonlit night. Bursting with impressions from the triumphant premiere, the upcoming tour and mutual adoration for one another, Vera and Francois take a stroll around Aleхandrovsky Park and the Kremlin. The lilacs are in bloom and their perfume permeates the air. The protagonists are so filled with happiness they only have eyes for each other; they fail to notice that comrades from the security services have already taken an interest in their relationship.
In the St. George Hall of the Kremlin, the gala reception is being held to mark the end of the World Youth and Student Festival. The welcome address and speeches are followed by dances and general conversation. Vera and Francois are together. Comrades from the USSR State Security Committee (KGB) approach them from out of the blue and invite them to have a discussion. They accuse Vera of being a spy. From now on, she cannot be seen with Francois. She can no longer go on tour and the ‘Prince’ must leave the USSR within 24 hours. Meanwhile, around them people are toasting the festival. The Spasskaya Tower bells chime.
Upon leaving the reception, the Main Theatre dancers, being Soviet citizens, are alternately summoned to interview in the director’s office. Amongst those who are not permitted to travel abroad is Vera; she was considered an extreme security threat. And this could mean she may never see Francois ever again.
The tour-goers and people who have come to wave them off convene at the airport. Vera goes to see off Yuri Zvezdochkin, whom she befriended over the course of the performance. They bid farewell to one another. And off they went! A square in Madrid. A scorching summer’s day. The artists had a day off and at last they are able to wander around and take in the city. The Soviet people look upon everything in delight and surprise. The hot-blooded Spanish men flirt with the Russian girls, while the luxurious Spanish girls cannot take their eyes off the Russian guys. A spontaneous dance breaks out on the street. KGB agents accompany the Soviet artists on the trip. They keep their compatriots safe and prevent them from succumbing to any temptations.
The tour continues. Now they are journeying east. The ascetic crowd of Soviet artists changed the colour palette: lots of bright colours and beautiful foreign parcels showed up. Suitcase upon suitcase and things visibly appeared.
An atmosphere of intoxicating oriental aromas, temptation and heady luxury surrounds the group. A comrade from Major Lazeikin’s office emerges from the crowd. He must ensure that ballet dancers’ behaviour does not infringe the Soviet moral code. The tour nears to an end and the troupe head home. There to meet with and see them off is Francois. He attempts to give Yuri a letter for Vera without anyone seeing. But the KGB agents witness everything.
...Following the troupe’s departure, the theatre corridors and rehearsal studios are empty. Vera Nadezhdina is all alone. She reads the critiques, displayed on the board, of the performance and newspaper reviews of the tour. Vivid pictures of the tour performance repertoires form in her imagination — the ovations, the bows, the new countries and the impressions… It’s such a shamethat she is not there. The group return from the tour. One by one, the dancers enter the rehearsal studio. Just think how much has changed! Yuri Zvezdochkin approaches Vera and gives her the letter. Prisyadkina sees and runs out of the studio. The teacher arrives and the class begins.
The class is unexpectedly interrupted by the Minister of Culture, the Director and the group of comrades from the state security organs. Behind them, Prisyadkina returns to her place. Everyone leaves apart from Nadezhdina. “Where is the letter?” It’s no use denying it. “You are a spy!” Vera hands the letter to the Minister of Culture.
Vera Nadezhdina is forbidden from working in the capital. She is sent to work in the Urals, to Perm (at that time known as Molotov). Wandering around the unknown city for the first time, Vera sees Francois in every male silhouette. However, she ends up unexpectedly running into Yuri. He has come to find her, he proposes they stay together forever. But will she be able to accept such a sacrifice?
…Time passes. For many years Vera and Yuri delighted audiences with their art. They stayed together, over the course of several decades harbouring love and respect for one another, they sincerely loved their art, and no political conflict could interfere with it. Vera and Yuri lived a happy life and grew old together.
All of a sudden… Uncle Yasha comes to pay them a visit. But perhaps he has long since departed this world? He calls after Vera and Yuri. The lights slowly go down. Our protagonists walk off into the distance with relief.