Sunday, June 22, 2014


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 14th of September 2014 at 6.03 - 8.45 pm

MASSENET: Cendrillon, an opera in four acts
Lucette/Cendrillon.................... Joyce DiDonato
Madame de la Haltière.............. Ewa Podleś
Prince Charming....................... Alice Coote
Fairy.......................................... Annick Massis
Noémie...................................... Cristina Obregón
Dorothée.................................... Marisa Martins
Pandolfe..................................... Laurent Naouri
King........................................... Luis Cansino
Dean of the Faculty................... Jordi Casanova
Superintendent of Pleasures...... Toni Marsol
Prime Minister.......................... Manel Esteve
Gran Teatro del Liceo Chorus & Orch/Andrew Davis
(recorded in the Gran Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona)


Cendrillon (150 minutes) deserves to be studied, not viewed uncomprehendingly in a flash; but subtitles were not provided when I watched this recording.
   The various “soundworlds” are pointed out by Rodney Milnes (Grove Music Online): (1) music for the pomp of the court, marches and dances imitating Lully and Rameau; (2) for the fairy world, Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss (E major mode); (3) for Cendrillon and her father Pandolfe, Massenet’s own artless style for their simplicity and virtue; (4) for the lovers, the chromaticism of Wagner (Tristan und Isolde); overall, we find the frothy Gallic humour of the composer. (Pauline Strauss said to her husband Richard: Why can’t you compose music like Massenet’s?)
Joyce DiDonato has also performed delightfully in Rossini’s Cenerentola, at the NY Metropera (2014).

Jules Massenet  CENDRILLON (1899)
Lucette/Cendrillon/Cendrille (Joyce DiDonato) Prince Charming (Alice Coote)  La Fée (Fairy godmother)
Pandolfe (father)   Madame de la Haltière (stepmother)  Noémie, Dorothée (stepsisters) Madeleine Pierard of NZ (an opportunity was missed here: she could have had her own sister Anna with her).
ROH Covent Garden, London, Bertrand de Billy

No fireplace or workbench for poor little Cinders, but when her cheminée is mentioned they have to wheel one on. The walls, on which the French fairy-tale is emblazoned, have numerous doors and can open to form a palace hall. There is an elevator in the centre of the stage, allowing characters to disappear and reappear.
ACT ONE  Chez Madame de la Haltière
[1.1] The domestic servants are saying that their mistress is a demanding shrew. Pandolfe agrees; he regrets having married this haughty countess, thereby subjecting his daughter Lucette (alias Cendrillon or Cendrille) to the cruelty of her stepmother and two stepsisters.
[1.2] These three ladies prepare for the royal ball, where they hope to attract the prince’s attention. Pandolfe goes with them, leaving Cendrillon to her chores.
[1.3] Lucette is resigned to her lot, and eventually she goes to sleep. The Fairy Godmother arrives and, with her assistants,  sets Lucette up to go to the ball, dressed in a suitable gown and seated in a horse-drawn carriage. Of course, she must return by midnight.
ACT TWO  Chez le Roi
[2.1] Prince Charming is not amused. The Master of Ceremonies (Superintendent of Pleasures) and the courtiers try to arouse him from his melancholy state; the Dean of the Faculty and the doctors intervene with no success; The Prime Minister reminds him that the King has decreed that the Prince must take pleasure in this ball.
[2.2] Prince Charming expresses his sadness and loneliness, as he pines for the woman of his dreams. The King demands that his son must choose one of the daughters of the nobility.
[2.3] This is where the obligatory ballet in the second act occurs. (It is said that Massenet was in the percussion section of the orchestra at the disastrous collapse of Wagner’s Tannhäuser in Paris, when the ballet was placed at the beginning of the first act.) But while this is a ballet in German and English, Massenet calls it a divertissement. In this production it is highly comical.
The various noble virgins present themselves, with the stepsisters and their mother appearing last but not least in the fuss they make;  but all are rejected.
[2.4] Then comes L’Inconnue (the Unknown) and the proverbial love at first sight occurs. He declares: Je t’aime. But midnight chimes and she departs in haste, leaving him perplexed.
[3.1] At home after the ball.
[3.1.1] Cinderella arrives first; she says that in her haste she had lost one of her glass slippers. (What nonsense! Who wants broken glass under their feet? Rossini has her giving one of her matching bracelets to her lover, so that they can find each other.) Godmother (Marraine) will you ever forgive me? She relives her terror, running home in the dark, but the bells in the tower comforted her. Now all her happiness is extinguished, reduced to cinders. She hears the family coming and flees to her room.
[3.1.2] Madame is castigating Pandolfe as a fool for having an interest in that unknown girl, when the Prince himself had obviously chased her away. She expatiates on the nobility of her lineage, including judges, abesses, an admiral, a cardinal, and two or three king’s mistresses (who virtually sat on the throne). The sisters acclaim her, but Pandolfe would prefer obscurity and tranquility. Lucette enters and asks her father what is the matter.  The three women tell her about the scheming girl, a nobody, who came to the ball and had the effrontery to speak to the son of the King ! But the objections from the company were so strong that she fled before the ball had ended; the Prince was clearly offended.
Lucette almost faints, and Pandolfe rebukes them for upsetting her, and so they go off infuriated.
[3.1.3] Pandolfe curses the ambition that led him into this marriage, and he offers to take Lucette back to their peaceful farm. They recall the joys of rural life, and he goes to prepare for their escape.
[3.1.4] Lucette decides to depart alone; her sorrows are too great, now that she has been told that her beloved has rejected her. She remembers the armchair, where she found consolation with her mother. She runs off into the night.
[3.2] Chez la Fée (The setting is at a great oak in a heath with broom in bloom, near the sea; but Laurent Pelly has chosen rooftops with chimneys, as in the Mary Poppins movie.)
The lovers are brought together, but separated, only hearing their voices, but eventually they embrace.
ACT 4.1 Cinderella’s home, on a Spring morning. Since her magical meeting with her Prince Charming, Lucette has been in a death-like trance for months (!), but she is now emerging from it. All learn that the Prince is hoping to find the true owner of the crystal slipper.
4.2  The King’s Palace  The couple are reunited; Madame acknowledges Lucette as her adorable daughter, and Pandalfe affirms his version of All’s well that ends well. Ici tout finit bien.

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