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FOR RELEASE FEBUARY 19, 2012
CONTACT: SHAUNA TYSOR
713 535 3226
713 535 3224
HOUSTON BALLET REVIVES CINDERELLA,
STANTON WELCH'S MODERN TAKE ON A CLASSIC FAIRY TALE
Production Features Spectacular Scenery and Costumes by
New Zealand Designer Kristian Fredrickson
HOUSTON, TEXAS - From February 23-March 4, 2012, Houston Ballet presents Stanton Welch's staging of Cinderella, set to Sergei Prokofiev's classic score. A fresh new take on the familiar tale, Cinderella features lavish scenery and spectacular costumes by the late New Zealand designer Kristian Fredrickson. In Mr. Welch's staging, Cinderella is no downtrodden waif, but a gutsy tomboy who stands up for herself to fight against her stepsisters, and in the end chooses love over money in a twist to suit the 21st century. Houston Ballet will give seven performances of Cinderella at Wortham Theater Center at 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.
Houston Ballet presented the American premiere of Mr. Welch's production of Cinderella in February 2008. Writing in Arts Houston Magazine in April 2008, critic Nancy Wozny pronounced the work "one rousing and very relevant ballet," observing, "Welch combined pathos, following the dark tenor of Prokofiev's score, with sharp wit and full bodied characters....Kristian Fredrikson's glorious storybook setting and luscious parade of gold-trimmed black gowns kept the thread alive."
"Cinderella is a special story, and this version in particular, as it carries a wonderful lesson for young and old alike in realizing that beauty is only skin deep. I love that Cinderella falls for the prince's footman instead of the handsome prince, whose pompous, arrogant personality makes him very unattractive. I think our culture is obsessed with looks now more than ever. In reality it is how a person acts and handles themselves that truly makes them beautiful. I find it rewarding to share this important message through a ballet that touches so many of our emotions; from comedy and new love to the sweet sentiment she holds for her mother," comments Houston Ballet Principal Amy Fote, who performed the role in 2008.
Ms. Fote continues, "One of the challenges for me in this version of Cinderella is that she is a tomboy where I am naturally more feminine. In order to make this believable I need to pay extra special attention to my walk and mannerisms, as they are definitely not second nature. Also, I am fighting with my step-sisters, who are played by men in our company. Although a lot of it is acting, the fight scenes take a tremendous amount of strength in order to make them look real."
The music of Serge Prokofiev's famous score for Cinderella inspired Mr. Welch to choreograph the ballet. "I first fell in love with Cinderella through its music. I was able to find a story of my own through the Prokofiev score, without seeing a ballet version until much later," he observed.
During the spring of 2012, Houston Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of music director Ermanno Florio, will perform two of the greatest ballet scores in the twentieth century, with performances of Cinderella February 24 - March 3, 2012 and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet June 7 - 17, 2012.
"The music for Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet represents the pinnacle of symphonic full length story ballets," comments Maestro Florio. "Prokofiev's use of orchestral colors and his wonderful melodies not only help define the style and feel of the period in which the ballets take place, but also with the use of leitmotifs, he helps define the soul and personalities of each character."
Both ballets have a difficult and storied past. Following the great success of Romeo and Juliet in 1938, the Kirov Ballet once again commissioned Prokofiev to write a score for Cinderella in the early 1940s. The project was interrupted by World War II and was put on hold for several years. It received its premiere in 1945 by the Bolshoi Ballet, with a performance by the Kirov Ballet five months later.
In fashioning his scenario for the ballet which he originally created for The Australian Ballet in 1997, Mr. Welch drew upon several interpretations of Cinderella: the Brothers Grimm's dark fairy tale version Aschenputtel ("ash girl"), Gioacchino Rossini's famous 1817 opera, and the traditional English pantomime version of Cinderella, with its lovable servant, Buttons.
It was his brother Damien who indirectly inspired Stanton Welch to re-conceive the traditional version of Cinderella. Damien was appearing in The Australian Ballet School as Dandini, the Prince's assistant. "I just didn't like the prince," Mr. Welch remembers, laughing. "I thought that she should marry his valet Dandini."
At the end of Mr. Welch's staging, Cinderella finds true love not with the handsome, narcissistic prince, but with his mild-mannered valet, Dandini. "I think that the subtle, implicit message of the traditional Cinderella story -- that someone will magically appear to rescue you from a bad situation - is not a great message to send to a young child. It's about standing up for yourself, making your own decisions, choosing your own path, your own love," commented Mr. Welch.
In the spring of 1997, critic Patricia Laughlin from Dance International, observed, "The highlight of the year so far has been the world premiere of Stanton Welch's new version of Cinderella for The Australian Ballet. I find it by far the most interesting version of this work that I have seen. Although it has romance, beauty and humor, Welch has also drawn on the dark, almost sinister thread which runs through Prokofiev's musical score....Each time I saw this ballet, I enjoyed it more. People were leaving the theatre bubbling with enthusiasm, and many were heard to say, 'I would love to see it again.'"
The production includes lavish wigs and 207 sumptuous costumes using materials ranging from silk, lace and laser fabrics to heavy tweed, stretch denim and lycra. Mr. Fredrickson also created a series of lavish and spectacular ball gowns for the stepmother and the stepsisters, who are portrayed by men who dance on pointe.
Mr. Fredrickson created the sets and costumes for many of Stanton Welch's ballets including: Of Blessed Memory (1991) Cinderella (1997) and The Sleeping Beauty (2005) for The Australian Ballet; and for Houston Ballet, the Pecos Bill section of Tales of Texas (2004) and Swan Lake (2006), the final production of his long and distinguished career before his death in 2005.
About Houston Ballet
On February 17, 1969 a troupe of 15 young dancers made its stage debut at Sam Houston State Teacher's College in Huntsville, Texas. Since that time, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 52 dancers with a budget of $19.2 million (making it the United States' fourth largest ballet company by number of dancers), a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center, the largest professional dance facility in America, Houston Ballet's $46.6 million Center for Dance which opened in April 2011, and an endowment of just over $57.6 million (as of May 2011).
Australian choreographer Stanton Welch has served as artistic director of Houston Ballet since 2003, raising the level of the company's classical technique and commissioning many new works from dance makers such as Christopher Bruce, Jorma Elo, James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte. James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, assuming the position of executive director of Houston Ballet in February 2012 after serving as the company's general manager for over a decade.
Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Over the last decade, the company has appeared in London at Sadler's Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Ottawa, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center and The Joyce Theater, and in cities large and small across the United States. Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labor-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets.
Writing in The Financial Times on March 6, 2006, dance critic Hilary Ostlere praised Houston Ballet as "a strong, reinvigorated company whose male contingent is particularly impressive, a well-drilled corps and an enviable selection of soloists and principals."
Houston Ballet Orchestra was established in the late 1970s and currently consists of 61 professional musicians who play all ballet performances at Wortham Theater Center under music director Ermanno Florio.
Houston Ballet's Education and Outreach Program has reached over 22,000 Houston area students (as of the 2010-2011 season). Houston Ballet's Academy has 509 students and has had four academy students win prizes at the prestigious international ballet competition the Prix de Lausanne, with one student winning the overall competition in 2010. For more information on Houston Ballet visit www.houstonballet.org.
WHAT: CINDERELLA (1997)
Music by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Choreography by Stanton Welch
Scenic and Costume Designs by Kristian Fredrikson (1940-2005)
Lighting Design by Lisa J. Pinkham
Houston Ballet Orchestra conducted by music director Ermanno Florio.
Generously underwritten by: JPMorgan Chase, The Methodist Hospital, Chevron, and The Wortham Foundation.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM:
The story has been a favorite for generations, but make no mistake, this is not your childhood Cinderella. More tomboy than princess, Stanton Welch's title character is a striking woman of substance, determination and spunk. She's in control, fighting the oppression and will of her evil stepmother with wit and vigor. And when she finds true love she grabs it – and wisely holds on with both hands.
WHEN: At 7:30 p.m. on February 23, 25 and March 2, 3, 2012
At 2 p.m. on February 26 and March 3, 4, 2012
WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston
TICKETS: Start at $18. Call (713) 227 ARTS or 1 800 828 ARTS. www.houstonballet.org.
Also available at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center downtown at 501 Texas at Smith Street
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet online at www.houstonballet.org.