Richard, Barbara, and I saw *Cendrillon* at the Met on 4/20/18. It’s Massenet’s opera of the Cinderella story, written in 1899 but only getting its Met premiere now.
I loved it! The opera is charming and sweet - - not particularly deep or powerful, but beautiful, well-crafted, and perfect for the story. The production was just as charming as the opera. Director Laurent Pelly and set designer Barbara de Limburg gave it a classic storybook setting, with the French text of the original tale written on the walls, a fanciful touch. There were plenty of bold ideas in the staging and the design, but they supported the music and the story, never overpowering it (unlike the new production of *Cosi Fan Tutte* that we saw a few weeks ago - - I walked out at intermission at that one).
Conductor Bertrand de Billy got such delicious sounds out of the Met Orchestra. It’s amazing how beautifully they play everything, from Verdi to Wagner to Handel to Massenet. The piece has a few orchestral interludes, and they were highlights of the performance - - their playing was rich, crisp, and full of Gallic flavor.
Joyce DiDonato played Cindrella, and I’m sure that she was the reason this production happened. She’s one of my favorite singers, she uses her voice in such an expressive, meaningful way, she has a warm presence onstage, she’s a delight. But I’m a little concerned about a mannerism she’s developed over the last couple years. She does this thing when singing very softly, she gets this disembodied, musical saw kind of sound, which usually makes the pitch go all wonky on her. We call this “going off the voice,” and she needs to stop it.
Alice Coote was Prince Charming. It was a nice choice on the part of Massenet to have the Prince played by another mezzo, she and Cinderella sounded lovely in their scenes together. And I’m sure they have plenty to talk about in rehearsal, they’ve shared many roles over the years, worked with a lot of the same people. Anyway, I’ve been hearing Coote for a long time, have always liked her singing (her aria in *The Exterminating Angel* this fall was the highlight of the performance), but have never heard her sing so beautifully. She was taking chances, singing in an idiomatic French way, and it was wonderful.
Kathleen Kim was the Fairy Godmother, and was a knockout. She’s another singer I’ve heard a few times but never sounded so good. The audience adored her and she had the most showy music in the score. Nothing like a coloratura soprano to give the world some sparkle! She had more than a touch of Glinda the Good Witch, and who doesn’t like that.
Stephanie Blythe was the Wicked Stepmother, though in this opera she’s more self-absorbed than truly wicked. Clearly Blythe was having a great time. She was on the opposite side of the spectrum from Kim - - Kim was perched on the ledger lines above the staff, and Blythe on the ledger lines below the staff. That girl shore does know what she’s doing down there, it was thrilling to hear such resonant descents into chest voice, sometimes startling but never rugged.
Laurent Naouri played Cinderella’s father, and I was surprised at how much I loved his performance. He has an odd voice, quintessentially French in its phonation, but absolutely perfect for this role. His little scene with Cinderella in the second act was the most touching moment in the show.
Here's the Met's "trailer" (please) for the production: