Tales are a major inspiration for Prokofiev’s works. Commissioned in 1940 for a ballet, Cinderella took five years to be presented to the public because of the Second World War. The musical composition perfectly highlights each character’s role in the tale and creates a symbiosis with classical ballet.
Prokofiev was deeply involved with fantasy and fairy tales all his life. One of his first works was an opera called The Giant, composed with the help of his mother, when he was just nine. Later operas included Desert Islands, Undina (about a water sprite), and The Love for Three Oranges (based on Gozzi’s commedia dell’arte play). The story of Peter and the Wolf is known to just about every child in the Western world. Then there is the song “The Ugly Duckling” (from an Andersen fairy tale), a ballet called The Tale of the Stone Flower (based on a Russian folk tale), Tales of an Old Grandmother for piano, music for the film Lieutenant Kijé, whose plot involves the “true” story of a man who never existed, and of course, above all, the ballet score Cinderella.
Charles Perrault’s fairy tale Cinderella has long been a fertile source of inspiration for composers. In addition to Prokofiev’s score, they also inspired operas by Rossini, Massenet, Wolf-Ferarri and Leo Blech; ballets by Johann Strauss II, Frank Martin, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Fernando Sor; orchestral pieces by Eric Coates, Selim Palmgren, and Sir Ernest MacMillan, to cite just a few. In Russia alone, the Cinderella story has been danced in one form or another for over 250 years; it was, actually, a grand pantomime-ballet of Cinderella with music by a forgotten composer that opened the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1825.