We take a look at Massenet's glittering fairy tale opera
Comedy and near-tragedy are finely blended in Cendrillon in some of the most beautiful music Massenet – king of Paris’s Opéra Comique – ever wrote. His magical take on the familiar Cinderella story is a sensuous, Belle Époque fairy tale gilded with lavish orchestral textures and glittering, virtuosic vocal writing.
Sweet-natured Cendrillon lives the life of a servant with her cruel stepmother, her stepsisters and her downtrodden father. But, transformed for just one night into a mysterious beauty, she captures the Prince’s heart at the royal ball. Will she find a way to escape her domestic drudgery and be reunited with her beloved? With a little help from her Fairy Godmother, she just might.
This escapist musical fantasy draws on everything from 18th century courtly dances to Wagnerian harmonies to bring its story to vivid life, conjuring a world of infinite musical and emotional variety.
Why not to miss it:
Seldom staged in the UK, this is a rare opportunity to see a fully staged production of a work that sits alongside Rossini’s Cenerentola, Dvořák’s Rusalka and Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel as one of the great operatic fairytales.
A great moment to look out for:
French opera is famous for its elaborate ballet sequences, and Cendrillon is no exception. At the heart of the opera is the ball at which Cinderella first meets Prince Charming. Massenet relishes the challenge of painting the gilded grandeur and spectacle of the royal court in music, and the result is a sequence of vivacious dances that hark back to the 18th-century world of fairytales. First the King himself enters, to stately accompaniment and plenty of cymbal crashes. He’s followed by the eligible young women, with a light-footed and tripping accompaniment from woodwind and strings, before the pace picks up and the dances turn boisterous and exhilarating.
The production transforms this episode, preserving Massenet’s colourful music, but reimagining the dances as a series of elaborate, slightly surreal party games in which all the eligible young women compete with increasing desperation to win the attention of the Prince.
Cast and creative team:
Two Glyndebourne favourites are reunited in this, the first ever staging of Massenet’s operatic fairytale at the Glyndebourne Festival. Soprano Danielle de Niese – ‘fiery’, ‘theatrical’ and ‘scrupulously musical’ as Rosina in 2016’s Il barbiere di Siviglia – will take the title role of Cinderella, with mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey – most recently an ‘exemplary’ Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier – as her Prince Charming.
Belgian baritone Lionel Lhote – memorable as eccentric music-master Somarone in Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict– also makes a welcome return to Glyndebourne as Cendrillon’s weak-willed father Pandolfe. Veteran mezzo-soprano Agnes Zwierko reprises the role of Cinderella’s stepmother Madame de la Haltière from the Tour 2018 production. Prize-winning Armenian soprano Nina Minasyan makes her Glyndebourne debut as the Fairy Godmother.
Celebrated British conductor John Wilson makes his much-anticipated Festival debut here, following the success of his Madama Butterfly for the Tour in 2016.
Carol and Paul Collins through Glyndebourne Association America Inc
And a syndicate in memory of Maria and Marina
And The Glass Slipper Circle
Image credits: Cendrillon header, painted collage by Shadric Toop | Sophie (Elizabeth Sutphen) and Octavian (Kate Lindsey) in Der Rosenkavalier, Festival 2018, photo by Robert Workman | Danielle de Niese in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Festival 2016, photo by Bill Cooper