The Story of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella

Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella* will be part of SF Ballet’s 2020 Season, with performances Jan 21–Feb 2.

ACT I

SCENE 1: GARDEN ESTATE

Young Cinderella is playing outside with her mother and father when suddenly her mother becomes ill. In terrifying rapidity, her mother is taken from her and Four Fates are left to watch over Cinderella, who weeps over her mother’s grave. A tree sprouts from her tears.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Erik Tomasson

SCENE 2: ROYAL PALACE

The young Prince Guillaume and his friend Benjamin (the valet’s son) are pursued by Madame Mansard (the prince’s dancing mistress). They dash through the hallways of the palace, causing havoc. Suddenly King Albert and Queen Charlotte appear, stiff and formal. The king is appalled at Guillaume’s lack of discipline, but the queen is more forgiving. The boys dash off again into the garden.

SCENE 3: THE GRAVE

Cinderella, now older, brings flowers to her mother’s grave. Two girls, Clementine and Edwina, appear, followed by their mother Hortensia, on the arm of Cinderella’s father. Cinderella realizes that this is to be her new family. Hortensia hands Clementine a bouquet to present to Cinderella who, horrified on behalf of her dead mother, discards it. Her father insists that she take the flowers, but Cinderella hurls them at Hortensia’s feet. Cinderella’s father will not tolerate this behavior. Fueled by pride, Cinderella assumes a subservient attitude towards the women, thus sealing her own fate.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© //© Erik Tomasson

SCENE 4: ROYAL PALACE GALLERY

King Albert attempts to explain to his grown son the political connections to be gained by marrying a titled princess. Queen Charlotte writes invitations to an upcoming ball, where the prince will meet these prospective brides. Guillaume is distracted by Benjamin, who imitates the many foreign princesses in the portraits hanging on the walls. King Albert becomes enraged at his son’s lack of responsibility to his future kingdom, but Guillaume can’t believe his parents would force him into a loveless marriage. Albert insists the invitations be delivered in person by the prince himself. Guillaume and Benjamin hatch a plan to trade places, pretending to be one another.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Chris Hardy

SCENE 5: CINDERELLA’S KITCHEN

Cinderella stoically serves her family breakfast. The briefest sign of tenderness towards Cinderella from her father is frowned upon by Hortensia. Edwina follows closely in her mother’s footsteps, gaining favors from her. Clementine, the sweeter stepsister, is bullied into following suit. A poor beggar arrives at the door seeking food and warmth. Taking pity, Cinderella brings him into the kitchen, but Hortensia, horrified, casts him out again. “The Prince” (Benjamin) appears at the door. He has discovered the poor beggar outside and insists that Hortensia provide him with food and warmth. Hortensia feigns concern and orders Cinderella to help the beggar. “The Prince” has come to deliver invitations to a ball where he shall choose his bride. Left alone with Cinderella, the beggar (Prince Guillaume in disguise) sees true kindness in this girl. The two pretend to be at the ball, laughing and dancing.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Chris Hardy

SCENE 6: THE NIGHT OF THE BALL

Cinderella is cleaning the kitchen when the rest of her family appears, dressed for the ball. There was an invitation for Cinderella, but Hortensia throws it into the fire, and her family departs for the palace without Cinderella. The Fates, who have continued to watch over Cinderella, present her with her invitation and lead her to her mother’s grave.

SCENE 7: THE GRAVE

From the tree, spirits of Lightness, Fluidity, Generosity, and Mystery appear to teach Cinderella the steps she will need for the ball. Embraced by the branches, Cinderella is transformed and the Fates send her on her way to the ball — cryptically warning her to keep an eye on the time.

Frances Chung in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Erik Tomasson

ACT II

SCENE 1: THE PALACE BALLROOM

The ball is underway when Cinderella’s family arrives. The king and queen witness the rather tipsy arrival of Prince Guillaume and Benjamin, neither in correct attire for such a formal occasion. Cinderella’s stepsisters still believe Benjamin to be the prince, giving the two young men another chance for deception. Guillaume finds he is uninterested in any of the eligible ladies, stepsisters included. A magical atmosphere fills the ballroom as a mysterious masked girl arrives. Guillaume is immediately drawn to her. Cinderella, recognizing Guillaume as the urchin, turns to flee, but is gently guided back to him by the Fates. The couple waltz together. Seeing the interest the prince shows in this mysterious beauty, Hortensia takes to the bottle, humiliating herself. Benjamin dances with Clementine, whom he likes. Guillaume and Cinderella dance, falling deeper in love. When Hortensia rips off Cinderella’s mask, it is time for her to flee. In the chaos caused by her sudden departure, she leaves behind one golden shoe. Guillaume vows to marry her.

Dores André and Carlo Di Lanno in in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Erik Tomasson)

ACT III

SCENE 1: IN THE KINGDOM

Benjamin and Guillaume search for Cinderella, trying the shoe on every female foot they can find.

San Francisco Ballet waiting to try on shoes in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© //© Erik Tomasson

SCENE 2: CINDERELLA’S KITCHEN

Cinderella awakens, and with the help of the Fates, remembers her astonishing night at the palace. Hiding the other golden shoe on the mantelpiece, she resigns herself to her daily chores. Clementine tells Cinderella of the boy she met, and then Edwina turns suspicious when she spies Cinderella dancing steps from the ball. Hortensia viciously attacks Cinderella, and her father must step in. Unannounced, Benjamin and Guillaume arrive, exhausted from trying the shoe on so many feet. When the shoe does not fit either of the stepsisters, Hortensia throws it into the fire. Cinderella comes forward with the matching shoe: Prince Guillaume has found his princess. Cinderella and her prince leave the family behind. All is not lost for Clementine, however, as Benjamin returns to take her with him. And a royal wedding is held.

Dores André and Carlo Di Lanno in in Wheeldon’s Cinderella // © Erik Tomasson


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Header Image: Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Erik Tomasson

*Cinderella© by Christopher Wheeldon

The Story of Don Quixote

PROLOGUE

Don Quixote is in his study, engrossed in a book about ancient chivalry. He falls asleep and dreams that he is a knight defending his ideal woman, Dulcinea. While he sleeps, Sancho Panza bursts through the door. The gluttonous Sancho has stolen a ham, and a group of exasperated housewives is pursuing him. Startled by the commotion, Don Quixote turns the angry women out of the room. An idea then comes to him: He will make Sancho his squire, and together they will set out on an adventure to defend virtue and punish those who don’t uphold the code of chivalry.

Jim Sohm and Pascal Molat in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

ACT I: A SQUARE IN BARCELONA

At a square in Barcelona, festivities and dancing are taking place. Kitri, daughter of the innkeeper, professes her love for Basilio, a barber.

Frances Chung as Kitri in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote

Kitri’s father Lorenzo spots the lovers in the crowd and separates them, insisting that Kitri will marry the wealthy, foppish nobleman Gamache. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s arrival in the square causes a commotion. When Don Quixote sees Kitri, he mistakes her for Dulcinea, and the two briefly dance a minuet. At the height of the merriment, Kitri and Basilio sneak off, pursued by Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Lorenzo and Gamache.


ACT I I , SCENE 1: THE SPANISH COUNTRYSIDE

Kitri and Basilio meet a group of pastoral nomads in a field of windmills and are warmly welcomed to their celebration. Kitri and Basilio hide just before Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo arrive on horseback at the same spot. Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo are invited to watch a puppet show.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Chris Hardy

During the performance, Don Quixote mistakes the puppet heroine for Dulcinea. With sword in hand, he rushes to defend her, destroying the puppet stage. Confused, he thinks a nearby windmill is a threatening giant and strikes at it. Caught by its sail, Don Quixote is hurled to the ground and falls into a deep sleep.


ACT I I , SCENE 2: THE DREAM

Don Quixote dreams he is a knight surrounded by forest nymphs and cupids; in the dream, Kitri symbolizes his ideal woman, Dulcinea.

At sunrise, Sancho Panza, Lorenzo, and Gamache arrive, interrupting his dream. Now sympathetic to the young lovers’ situation, Don Quixote attempts to lead Lorenzo and Gamache astray.


ACT I I , SCENE 3: A TAVERN

Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo finally catch up with Kitri and Basilio in a tavern.

Sarah Van Patten in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

Once again Lorenzo insists Kitri accept Gamache’s proposal. In response, Basilio fakes suicide. Kitri begs Don Quixote to persuade Lorenzo let her marry Basilio—it was the young man’s final wish before his death. When Don Quixote threatens Lorenzo with his sword, he gives his consent and blesses the lovers. Instantly Basilio comes back to life.


ACT III: THE WEDDING

There is much merrymaking as the village celebrates the marriage of Kitri and Basilio. With Don Quixote as the guest of honor, the happy lovers dance for him.

Mathilde Froustey in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote. (© Erik Tomasson)

Don Quixote congratulates them, then bids farewell to all. Together with Sancho Panza, Don Quixote continues on his adventures.

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Header photo: Angelo Greco and Mathilde Froustey // © Erik Tomasson