Did you know that you can find an adaptation of Cinderella in nearly every culture? No, I don’t mean looking up the Disney version dubbed in Dutch or Russian on Youtube. I literally mean that almost every culture embraces a story of a young girl, who, despite all odds gets to have her chance at happily ever after.
When I was about three years old and living in Germany with my family, my mother bought me 5 small porcelain plates which depicted different intricately painted fairy tale scenes. There was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella. For some reason, the scene of Cinderella leaving the ball in a big yellow gown was always my favorite. A few years later, and more than familiar with the Disney masterpiece, I read “The Rough-Face Girl” in school, which was originally a Mi’kmaq storyteller’s adaptation from the late 1800’s. There are also really fantastic adaptations from Mexican, Egyptian, Chinese and Korean traditions.
I discovered a little later that there were not just one, but two fantastic operatic adaptations of the classic fairy tale. Both Donizetti and Massenet’s settings of La Cenerentola and Cendrillon are beautifully written masterpieces that deserve far more stage time than currently given. Luckily however, in the summer of 2006, The Santa Fe Opera included Massenet’s rarely performed Cendrillon in it’s festival season, starring none other than the now internationally famous Yankee Diva herself, Joyce Didonato. Though the opera was sold out, I was lucky enough to be taken by a friend to see Cendrillon; tenth row center orchestra! Now, this post isn’t necessarily meant to be about the Laurent Pelly production at Santa Fe, or about one of my now favorite opera superstars, but I will say that I still consider the performance I witnessed to be the best theatrical experience I have ever had in my life. It was, literally… magical. I should also mention that The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is including the production in it’s 2010/2011 season starring Joyce Didonato in the title role. Now to find a way to get there..
Aside from watching the production in a beautiful open-air theatre, there is also something really special about experiencing friends perform the music and characters that you love. This past Saturday, I had the upmost pleasure of attending New York Lyric Opera’s concert version of Cendrillon starring my friend Raquel Suarez in the title role, along with one of my best friends, Rachel Hall as the stepsister Noemie. Both sang beautifully; Rachel was a humorous and pouty stepsister and Raquel’s Lucette (Cendrillon) was both heart warming and beautiful. Brava to both of you.
Unlike most people, I wasn’t introduced to Massenet through Manon first, and while I had long owned a recording of Renee Fleming singing “Je Marche…obeissons” on her By Request cd, I had a tendency to skip over to the arias I already knew. It was definitely Cinderella who first showed me the epic beauty of the great French master.
So with that, I encourage you to listen to the music from this great opera.