As a birthday present, my mother took me to see the American Ballet Theatre production of Cinderella tonight at the Met. The last ballet I went to was the Boston Ballet in 2007, for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I remember as being performed against a sparse, abstract set. The incredible skill was obvious; the plot much less so.
When the curtain went up tonight (and the translucent screen behind it, one of half a dozen used in the show), I found myself looking at a classic Metropolitan Opera set: richly detailed, filling the proscenium, in a style exaggerated just slightly past photoreal. The three sets (home, forest, and palace) helped a lot, as far as figuring out what was happening.
The story was also a good choice for a reintroduction to ballet, being simple, familiar, and full of clear visual iconography: tattered dresses, ball gowns, sparkling slippers, pumpkins, and brooms. This show, “the Ashton production”, doubles down on the familiar story with simple, broad comedy (the stepsisters were played as clowns by men in drag) and emphatic pure romance. I was occasionally confused, but for the most part it made sense.
Of course, sometimes when I thought I was following along, I got a reminder that everyone else in the room was seeing much deeper than I was. At one point the audience burst into applause and cheers so forcefully that it stopped the show, and the dancers took a bow mid-scene. They did not appear to be surprised. The cause appeared to be a chaînés by Marianela Nuñez, which I guess must be especially difficult.
Overall, it was definitely better than last time. I might even wait less than 8 years before giving it another try.