Published: April 2018

The Classical Source once again brings you a handy guide to all ten of the Metropolitan Opera productions included in this season’s international broadcast series.

Joyce DiDonato in the title role of Massenet's Cendrillon
Photograph: Ken Howard / Met Opera

#10: Cendrillon

Who wrote it?
The libretto of Cendrillon was written by Henri Caïn and follows the narrative of Perrault’s telling of the Cinderella tale. It was Massenet’s twenty-fourth stage-work and achieved instant success at its premiere at the Opéra Comique in May 1899. For the following two decades it was staged relatively frequently around the World before lapsing into relative obscurity – curious for the music is enchanting, the wit abundant, and the story familiar. In recent years interest in the piece has resurged.

What’s it about?
In this version Lucette (Cendrillon) lives with her father and stepsisters Noémie and Dorothée in the home of her comically domineering stepmother Madame de la Haltière. Cendrillon’s father, Pandolfe, is weak and ineffective, doing nothing to alleviate the constant bullying of his daughter.
The sisters are preparing for the ball at which the prince will choose a wife. Cendrillon is left behind, but her fairy godmother arrives, transforms her attire and makes sure she gets to the ball. She must leave before midnight. The prince has not expressed any interest in any potential brides until Cendrillon arrives and dazzles
The Prince falls in love with her, but midnight chimes and she flees leaving one of her glass slippers.
When back home Pandolfe finally loses patience with his second wife and her daughters and apologises to Cendrillon. He plans a separate life together, but she sees death as the only escape.
The Prince has re-summoned all eligible brides – he will marry the one with the other shoe. Cendrillon’s presence is assured by magical means and the couple are re-united. Even her step-family rejoices at their fortune.

Maya Lahyani as Dorothée, Stephanie Blythe as Madame de la Haltière, and Ying Fang as Noémie in Massenet's Cendrillon
Photograph: Ken Howard / Met Opera Look out for...
Massenet’s music has vivacity and a sumptuous quality, headily romantic in nature with occasional nods to a rather more grandiose style of orchestration – he knew his Wagner. There is also much affectionate parodies of Baroque music and gentle digs at the Grand Opera conventions of Meyerbeer.
Each of the Acts has a distinct soundworld. The vocal honours generally fall to the female singers. The role of Lucette is an attractive one and can elicit much pathos. The role of the Prince is a ‘trouser’ role – a darker-voiced mezzo is needed. Their duet is one of the emotional highlights of the score. The fairy godmother requires vocal stamina, agility and technical dazzle. Madame de la Haltière is made for any fruity-voiced contralto to get her teeth into.

Who’s in it?
The Metropolitan is staging Laurent Pelly’s production already seen in London and Barcelona. The set and costume designs by Barbara de Limburg and Pelly himself conjure a world of spectacle and magic. The title role is sung by Joyce DiDonato – it’s a part she has made her own. Alice Coote sings the Prince – her rich velvety tones should bring just the right contrast to the duets. Stephanie Blythe is Madame de la Haltière – she’s known for her comic talents and no doubt will bring this particular gorgon to theatrical life! Kathleen Kim will provide the vocal firework display for the fairy Godmother. Bertrand de Billy conducts.

When’s it on?
If you are in New York City then the matinee is live at the Met itself. Otherwise it is broadcast to cinemas on Saturday April 28.

 

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