With its combination of enchanting love story and broad, burlesque comedy, Cendrillon is one of the great operatic fairy tales – a Cinderella that looks back to Charles Perrault’s original story in all its richness and ambiguity. Massenet’s sensuous belle époque fairy tale is gilded with lavish orchestral textures and glittering vocal writing, drawing on everything from baroque dances to Wagner-inspired chromaticism to bring its story to colourful life, conjuring a world of infinite musical and emotional variety.
Fiona Shaw’s original Tour production makes its Festival debut here, re-directed by Fiona Dunn and conducted by John Wilson, with a cast led by Glyndebourne favourites Danielle de Niese as Cendrillon and Kate Lindsey as her Prince.
With the collaboration of Naxos
A fairy tale opera in four acts
Music by Jules Massenet
Libretto by Henri Cain based on Charles Perrault's 1698 version of Cendrillon
Premiered at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique of Paris on May 24, 1899
Music arrangement with the publisher and copyright owner Chester Music Ltd
Live from the Glyndebourne Festival the 30th of June, 2019
London Philharmonic Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Conductor | John Wilson
Stage director | Fiona Shaw
Revival director | Fiona Dunn
Designer | Jon Bausor
Costume designer | Nicky Gillibrand
Lighting designer | Anna Watson
Cendrillon | Danielle de Niese
Madame de la Haltiére | Agnes Zwierko
The Charming Prince | Kate Lindsey
The Fairy | Nina Minasyan
Eduarda | Melo Noémie
Julie | Pasturaud Dorothée
Lionel | Lhote Pandolfe
Massenet compiled in an exemplary way the resources that help define the genre drame lyrique in the four-act Werther. The use of well-known storylines, in this case Goethe’s novel published in 1774, was the starting point of a repertoire that was not based as much on the creation of clearly-established characters between whom dramatic relationships develop but on verismo, craftily drawing upon prior images conjured by the story’s episodes or by illustrations, where musical values strictly predominated over theatrical values. The romantic despair of Goethe’s hero, with an impossible love leading to his suicide, is softened in the libretto by Blau, Milliet and Hartmann, confined to the everyday life and sentimental boundaries of the bourgeoisie.
Massenet recreates this setting admirably. The singing is perfectly adapted to the peculiar nature and accents of the French language, delivering its discourse with complete naturalness, the melody flowing softly without harmonic complexity, with careful and clear timbre providing restrained expression in line with the character’s feelings, which are also linked to a variety of motifs, on which the work progresses. Charlotte’s grand scene at the start of Act III stands out alongside the excellence and mastery of the protagonist’s arias, such as “Pourquoi me réveiller”.
Virtue, Fortune and Love compete for superiority over mankind in the prologue to the most erotic opera of the 17th century, L’incoronazione di Poppea. Composed by Claudio Monteverdi at the age of 75, it was first performed in 1642 at the Teatro dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, in Venice.
This dialectical confrontation between Virtue and Fortune gives rise to overpowering passions, embodied by characters such as Nerone (unrestrained desire), Poppea (the lust for power) and Ottavia (the drive for vengeance) and opposed by the Stoic morality of the philosopher Seneca and the sincere love of Ottone. 35 years after his experimental Orfeo, Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea presents the innovations of mid-17th century Venetian opera: the absence of dances and choruses, a smaller orchestra, and the exaltation of vocal melody. A vocal continuum, ranging from recitative to ariosi, strophic arias and ensembles, made use of all the then current resources of vocal language; human emotions are expressed in sound with an unknown level of characterisation and psychological refinement up to that time.
This was the first opera about historical figures, real people, rather than portraying characters who embody emotional states. L’incoronazione di Poppea attempts to perceive and hear how these emotions appear and evolve, how they seduce and move us, how they invite us to enter the unstable and decentralised space of the Baroque world: the always subtle shift from recitative to arioso and cantabile, from cool intellect to hot blood, from reason to ecstasy, shapes a musical drama of human relationships, where the map is the geometry of the soul in movement.
Vittorio Grigòlo in the lead role leads an excellent cast that includes Thomas Hampson, Sonya Yoncheva, Christine Rice and Sofia Fomina in Offenbach's fantastic operatic drama.
With the collaboration of Naxos
Through the eye of French director Laurent Pelly this expression of Berlioz’s undying admiration for the Bard — his adaptation of Much Ado about Nothing as an opéra comique — becomes "an elegant treatise on love and music designed in shades of grey with 50s-era costumes" (Sunday Express ★★★★).
Housed by designer Barbara de Limburg in a series of oversized boxes, it’s "terribly chic, terribly pretty" (The Spectator).
Soaring over the warmly graceful playing of the London Philharmonic’, Paul Appleby sings ‘attractively’ as Bénédict and Stéphanie d’Oustrac "makes a marvellously wiry and fiery Béatrice, singing with charm and acting with gusto" (The Telegraph).
With the collaboration of Naxos
In an era marked by haste and the need to reach the quickest goals immediately, Alfredo Kraus knew how to install prudence and moderation among his objectives. Intelligence begins with the discovery of his vocal capacity, continues with the choice of the appropriate repertoire and ends with the controlled distribution of his possibilities. The coherence of her professional career is decisive. Out of almost 40 operatic roles, about twenty are enough to cement his legend, all sung in Italian or French and therefore belonging to these repertoires. Youthful personalities, passionate and prone to amorous sentiment, entities that facilitate the best weapons of his singing: elegance, flexibility, fluidity, spontaneity, transparency of sound, subtlety and ease of ascent to the high register, qualities that have remained untouched, with the logical changes brought about by age, throughout his long career.
Kraus impresses us for many reasons, but especially for the characteristic timbre quality, the fantasy of his phrasing, the display of his regulation, the naturalness of his legato and the perfection of his line.