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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Cendrillon

Joyce DiDonato stars in the Massenet version of Cinderella.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Joyce DiDonato goes to the ball in the Laurent Pelly production of Cendrillon.
Photo © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera has spent the last decade enthusiastically trawling through the vast operatic catalogue of Jules Massenet, the Parisian composer who represents the last gasp of French Romanticism before the dawn of the 20th century. Here they present the company's first performances of Cendrillon Joyce DiDonato sings the title role.

What is Cendrillon?
Jules Massenet was one of the most popular French opera composer of the latter part of the 19th century. This is his fourteenth opera, a four-act retelling of the classic 1698 fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

What's the story?
I think, gentle reader, that you may be familiar with this tale. Cendrillon is the classic story of the unloved stepdaughter who, thanks to the good office of her Fairy Godmother, is able to go to the ball, meet her Prince Charming and fall in love happily ever after. (Spoiler: they get married at the end.)

What's the music like?
Massenet was a master of the lachrymose, and his gift for lush, post-Wagnerian melody sprinkles sugar on every page of Cendrillon. His skill at writing for the voice is exceeded only by a talent for lyric orchestrion that epically supports the voice.

Who's in it?
This production features an all-star cast. Mezzo Alice Coote plays Prince Charming, a trouser part in this version. Kathleen Kim brings her stratospheric soprano to the role of the Fairy Godmother. Stephanie Blythe is  Madame de la Haltière, Massenet's version of the wicked stepmother.

Why should I go see it?
Did we mention the cast? Joyce DiDonato is a genuine operatic star with the acting ability and vocal chops to bring off this high-flying part. The rest of the cast is very solid as well. This is the last new Met production of the 2018 season.

How's the production?
This staging was created for the Santa Fe Opera in 2006 and finally arrives at the Met after a sojurn on the stage of the Royal Opera of Covent Garden. Laurent Pelly's vision of the opera includes huge sets with the words of the original fairy tale printed on the walls, whimsical horse-headed footmen and a carriage for Cinderella formed from the word "Carosse", the French word for carriage.

When does it open?
Cendrillon arrives at the ball on April 12.

Where can I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Is there a Live in HD broadcast planned?
Yes, it's scheduled for April 28.

Which recording should I buy?
There is only one Cendrillon in the catalogue, and it is currently out of print. It is a Columbia set conducted by the late great Julius Rudel with a radiant Frederica von Stade in the title role. The only hitch: tenor Nicolai Geddai sings the role of Prince Charming instead of the mandated mezzo-soprano. However, a version of this production was filmed at Covent Garden and released on compact disc. 

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.