Jules Massenet – Cendrillon
CAST: Cendrillon: Joyce DiDonato, Prince Charmant: Alice Coote, la Fée: Eglise Gutiérrez, Madame de la Haltière: Eva Podleś, Pandolfe: Jean-Philippe Lafort, Noémie: Madeleine Pierard, Dorothée: Kai Rüütel
Royal Opera House Orchestra e Chorus
Chorus master: Renato Balsadonna
Bertrand de Billy, conductor
Stage director: Laurent Pelly
This recording of Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon, visually dark (the lights are low from the second act onwards) and musically melancholic, was performed with great success a few years ago at the Royal Opera House in London with a sumptuous cast and direction.
Joyce DiDonato in the title role shines above everyone. After the glitter of many Rossini’s Cenerentola, this time she sings her quieter “sister” with the charisma that is her own and with an extraordinary ability to express, both musically and scenically, the meekness and submission of the character, who thus imposes on the stage even without resorting to great virtuosity. At DiDonato echoes Alice Coote (the Prince), who is convincing in portraying the bored young man in her first scene and then creates many beautiful duets with the protagonist.
It is always a pleasure to listen to the veteran Eva Podleś as Madame de la Haltière. Podleś, who still sings with firmness and skill at an age when many colleagues have retired for a long time, has an enviable vocal line and surprises every time with her perfect control of the low notes. Her talent as an actress is also remarkable and she is a monstrously comical stepmother, especially considering that the red dress and hairstyle make her look dangerously similar to the Queen of Hearts of Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (was it intentional?).
The sisters, sung by Madeleine Pierard and Kai Rüütel, are also very good and Eglise Gutiérrez is absolutely perfect as the fairy godmother. I do not like Jean-Philippe Lafort (Pandolfe), who seems uncomfortable and is never convincing, spoiling especially his duet with DiDonato.
Bertrand de Billy’s conduction is great and creates a romantic and melancholy atmosphere.