Sunday 3 June at 6.00pm on RNZ Concert
Metropolitan Opera 2018 Season
The French composer’s sumptuous take on the classic Cinderella fairy-tale
Cendrillon................... Joyce DiDonato
La Fée.......................... Kathleen Kim
Le Prince Charmant.... Alice Coote
Mme de la Haltière..... Stephanie Blythe
Pandolfe...................... Laurent Naouri
Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy (EBU)
Charles Perrault’s original story was published at the end of the 17th century, and the opera and its music preserve references to that era of lavish court entertainments and clear-cut distinctions of social hierarchies. It is, however, a fairy tale, and as such, it takes place in an indeterminate past in which magic, whimsy, and love at first sight are features of everyday life.
Jules Massenet (1842–1912), a French composer wildly popular in his day, was noted for his operas, songs, and oratorios. The libretto for Cendrillon was fashioned by Henri Cain (1857–1937), a dramatist known for providing libretti for operas, including several by Massenet. The Cinderella story was written by the French author Charles Perrault (1628–1703), who, beyond crafting a number of famous fairy tales, was a noted academic of his time.
Massenet’s score features a preponderance of the lower female voices - including a mezzo-soprano as the object of Cendrillon’s affection - that were so favoured by French composers in the 19th century. The result is an otherworldly yet sensual tonal palette that serves as a rich background for this familiar tale.
Against all the fairy-tale wonder of the score, the title character and her prince are recognisably human. Their Act II love duet is a masterful moment emblematic of Massenet’s elegant style: The prince is lyrically effusive, while all of Cendrillon’s gushing emotion is expressed in a single refined yet poignant phrase as she says “You are my Prince Charming,” recalled at other points throughout the score.