Cinderella’s Waltz from Prokofiev’s Ballet

In 1940, Prokofiev started writing his ballet Cinderella, Op. 87. Five years later, the work premiered after the composer took time to create his epic opera War and Peace as a response to the German invasion of Russia in 1941.

The music in Cinderella is witty, beautiful, and sometimes strange. While I am not going to discuss the full ballet today, I want to share with you the exquisite waltz that takes place at the end of Act 2:

In this scene, Cinderella dances with the prince before realizing – to her dismay – that it is midnight, and she must leave before the magic wears off. As the clock strikes 12, Cinderella flees.

The waltz theme begins with the low strings. The melody itself is a little disjointed; Prokofiev uses unexpected harmonies and chromaticism to symbolize Cinderella’s precarious situation. The sound here is full and colorful, creating the imagery of a royal ball.

*Music theory: the waltz is set up in G minor, but the theme alternates between a raised and a lowered (perfect) 4th and a lowered and a raised 7th. Because these alterations make it hard to feel centered in the key signature, we have the impression of unsurety and a lack of stability. This perfectly describes Cinderella and her relationship with the prince.

Prokofiev's Cinderella Waltz Main Theme
Prokofiev’s Cinderella Waltz Main Theme

The music expands as the two lovers dance, becoming almost wild and out of control (especially starting around 2:14 in the video above). It is easy to imagine a grand room full of couples dancing together – the women in beautiful gowns gliding among the twinkling lights at the guidance of their smartly dressed companions.

Then at 2:45, Cinderella realizes she must leave. The music shifts from a glamorous waltz to a foreboding close-up of the clock; the percussion ticks the seconds, and the clock strikes midnight (listen for the crash starting at 3:29). The low brass growl between the chimes, representing Cinderella’s distress and warning the listener about the consequences of her adventure.

After the magic has worn off (4:03), Cinderella and the prince reminisce on their wonderful night. The music here is full of longing and heartbreak; beautiful lines in the strings and woodwinds combined with some crunchy harmonies in the brass show the bitter-sweet nature of the story. He wants to believe he will find her soon. She believes she will never see him again, and you can feel Cinderella resign to that fact.

Cinderella's Waltz from Prokofiev's Ballet


16 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m loving your blogs. Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Prokofiev, like other Russians, loved to pull ex

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Prokofiev, like many Russians, loved to pull exquisite themes from dark chaos. But to hear his most lyrical self, there’s nothing like his Sonata for flute and piano, Op. 94. If you want to start your day with beauty, check out YouTube’s recording with Martha Argerich and James Galway.
    The piano part is wonderful too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve heard the first movement of that sonata. I’ll have to go listen again!


  4. Sorry – just erase the first one! – Ellen

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Raylene says:

    Well, that didn’t resolve at all like we expect! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! It’s not like we all know the story or anything…😁 I love how Prokofiev tells the story but is able to put his own musical style in it.


      1. Raylene says:

        He clearly didn’t consult Disney about the ending! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well at the end of the ballet things work out; the waltz here is the end of Act 2 of three. He just liked to draw out the drama a little more than Disney 😉


      3. Raylene says:

        Ah, yes. I’d forgotten the limited focus of this piece on the story. In that case: “brilliant angsty cliff-hanger!”

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Exactly! Who knew Cinderella was so full of drama?!


  6. Thank you for the vivid description – the music comes alive as I read and listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure! I’m so happy you liked it.


  7. pendantry says:

    I know next to nothing about music, but today you’ve taught me a little bit. Thank you very much, I’ll be back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you liked the post! Thanks for the comment. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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