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Saturday, December 1, 2012
Joyce DiDonato, Eglise Gutierrez, Alice Coote, Ewa Podles
Recorded: July 2011
The Royal Opera presents the story of Cinderella as told in Massenet’s opera Cendrillon. Joyce DiDonato stars in the virtuosic titular role, with mezzo-soprano Alice Coote in the trouser role of Prince Charming. Dazzling runs and sparkling coloratura shimmer throughout the evening, with French music specialist Bertrand de Billy at the podium.
Madame de la Haltière’s home. Cendrillon’s father, Pandolfe, hears the servants complain about his demanding second wife. His own daughter, Lucette, is neglected in comparison with his wife’s two daughters (from a previous marriage), Noémie and Dorothée, but he is too timid to intervene. Pandolfe, his wife and stepdaughters all get ready for a grand ball that night at the king’s palace. When they set off, poor Lucette is left alone to do the chores.
Lucette – who is nicknamed Cendrillon (Cinderella) – bewails her lot, and then falls asleep. Suddenly her fairy-godmother appears, and conjures up fine clothes and a carriage to take her to the ball. She wakes up, to be sent off in splendour, with a pair of magic glass slippers that will make her unrecognizable to her family. Her fairy-godmother warns that she must be home by midnight.
At court. At the ball, the eternally morose Prince Charming is too lonely to enjoy himself. He is not pleased when the king advises him to choose a bride at the ball. Madame de la Haltière and her daughters arrive, but are afraid to approach the prince. Cendrillon then makes her grand entrance, resplendent. Her stepmother and sisters are eaten up with jealousy. Alone with Cendrillon, the prince declares his love and she responds with tenderness. Midnight then strikes and Cendrillon rushes away, leaving her beautiful glass slipper behind.
Madame de la Haltière’s home. Cendrillon is safely back home, though minus one of her magical slippers. Her family return, arguing about the mystery guest at the ball. Pandolfe declares her quite delightful while Madame de la Haltière and her daughters say how much they despised the shy, unknown woman. Cendrillon nearly faints when she hears herself described so disapprovingly – believing that the prince must have looked down on her for the same reasons. Pandolfe comforts Cendrillon and suggests they both go back to the country, where they were once so happy. When he retires to bed, Cendrillon is overcome with despair and runs away to the country on her own.
The fairy’s magic domain. Cendrillon’s fairy-godmother intervenes to help the two lovers. In a magic vision, she brings them together to declare their love.
The terrace of Cendrillon’s home. Discovered unconscious beside a stream, Cendrillon has been taken home and slowly nursed back to health by her father. He recalls to her the dreams she has spoken of in her sleep – the ball, the prince and the glass slipper. Madame de la Haltière describes how the prince is earnestly seeking the owner of the glass slipper. Cendrillon quietly asks the Fairy to assist her once again.
The palace. Young women suitors gather before the prince to try on the glass slipper, but he does not recognize Cendrillon among them. Suddenly, the Fairy brings in Cendrillon, whose arrival delights the prince. As the two are reunited, Madame de la Haltière rushes over to embrace Cendrillon, pushing her husband out of the way as she does so.
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