Massenet’s “Cinderella” live from the New York Met

“I come back to Cinderella, writes the composer Jules Massenet in My memories. Albert Carré had staged this opera by creating a staging as new as it is marvelous. (…) More than sixty uninterrupted performances followed this premiere. The Isola brothers, directors of La Gaîté, later gave a large number of performances. A curious thing, for a work so Parisian in allure, Italy, in particular, made Cinderella a very warm welcome. In Rome, this lyrical work was performed some thirty times, a rare figure! From America, a cable came to me, the text of which is as follows:

“CINDERELLA yesterday, phenomenal success. “

The last word, too long, had been cut in two by the dispatching office! »

Composed in 1894-1895 and created at the Opéra-Comique on May 24, 1899, the outstanding work of Perrault’s famous tale deserved and still amply deserves the triumph of which its author rejoices. In an enchanting, mischievous and moving fashion, Massenet imagined a fine, diapretic score, very original despite its well-known plot.

This singularity is largely based on the vocal ranges that he attributes to the main characters. If young Lucette (Cinderella) is a mezzo-soprano – like Angelina in Cinderella of Rossini inspired by the same story – the role of prince charming is sung, him, not by a man but by a soprano, in the tradition of the transvestite roles which will take again for example a Richard Strauss in The Knight of the Rose. As for the fairy, godmother of the heroine, she possesses the fascinating and magical timbre of coloratura soprano, evolving in the firmament of the most unreal highs.

Goldsmith of the orchestra, Massenet paints as a landscape painter the decor and atmospheres of his musical tale: we revel in baroque reminiscences, sets, ironic or tender, embellishing the Mozartian genius, while passion and amorous anguish give rise to magnificent romantic outpourings.

A bewitching production

The Metropolitan Opera in New York is therefore doing a good deed by illuminating winter with this book, especially as the staging by Laurent Pelly (created in 2006 and resumed since with the same enthusiasm) is a little gem of fantasy, of charm and ingenuity. The characters can evolve there naturally, combining a refined acting with the sinuous vocal lines that Massenet offers them.

We can already imagine the delicious theater couple formed by Isabel Leonard and her prince Emily d’Angelo while Jessica Pratt is entrusted with the bewitching, vocalizing – and perilous role! – of the good fairy. In the comic vein, Stephanie Blythe will certainly embody with verve the sufficient and ridiculous Madame de La Haltière, in a hurry to see her daughters, just as vain as she, attract glances and steal the heart of the prince. The orchestra is under the direction of French conductor Emmanuel Villaume, whose career has blossomed in particular in the United States and whom the Met regularly invites.

Soon also at the Opéra Bastille

Purists will be curious – and, we hope, convinced – by the “abridged English version” which is offered to New York audiences and shown in cinemas around the world, including more than 350 in France (1). The Cinderella original in four acts and six tableaux, and of course in French, will be to be discovered in a new production at the Opéra Bastille, in Paris, from March 23 to April 28. Mariame Clément will direct it with Carlo Rizzi in the musical direction.


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