Academic journal article Notes

Jules Massenet

Academic journal article Notes

Jules Massenet

Article excerpt

Jules Massenet. Cendrillon. DVD. Bertrand de Billy / Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. With Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Ewa Podles, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Eglise Gutiérrez. London: Virgin Classics, 2011, 2012. 60250995. $37.99.

Massenet is supposed to have claimed that he was much more comfortable writing about bad girls than good ones, and that might have something to do with the neglect that his fourteenth opera, based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault known to us as Cinderella, has suffered. Cendrillon has been recorded only once, and has received a few stage productions in modern times, mostly for mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. While the role is theoretically a soprano one, the music lies mainly in the mid-range, and so is comfortable for mezzos with a good upper extension, in this case Joyce DiDonato.

This production was recorded in performance at London's Royal Opera House, although it was first presented at the Santa Fe Opera and is co-produced with the opera houses in Barcelona, Brussels, and Lille. Stage director Laurent Pelly brings his usual whimsical touch to the story, although not so heavy handed as is sometimes the case. Played on what is basically a unit set, painted with enlarged text from the Perrault tale, the production is set in no particular time or place, the costumes generally designed to identify the characters and their place in society. The one exception is the fairy godmother, who is costumed as a sort of Mae West-like vamp - perhaps Pelly is trying to give Massenet his bad girl after all? No harm is done by it, or by costuming the fairy helpers as clones of Cinderella herself. …

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