Monday, May 13, 2019

Jules Massenet, Cendrillon (1899)

Well, I saw this one. It's a Cinderella story, as you might have gathered. It includes most of the usual story beats, though not necessarily with the levels of emphasis you'd expect. It does not, however, feature anyone getting their feet mutilated, which is probably for the best.  No anthropomorphic mice either, thank goodness.

So it's all cute and everything, but somehow...I feel underwhelmed. You need a certain kind of insouciant glitter for a story like this, and I just didn't really feel that here. The music, to me, had its moments but wasn't by and large that gripping. The business with The Prince and Cendrillon (Lucette, is her real name) is underdeveloped, which might just make this a regular Cinderella story, admittedly, but there are these pathos-laden arias which somehow feel unearned and tonally dissonant. And her dopey father is just annoying, though again, why would you expect otherwise. Hmm. Is it possible that I'm really just objecting to the Cinderella story tout court?

You certainly can't complain about the cast. Top honors, in my estimate, go to Kathleen Kim as a suitably sparkly Faerie Godmother, who gets some fun coloratura to boot. It also features STEPHANIE FUCKING BLYTHE as the evil (although "evil" might be pushing it here) stepmother, which was actually what prompted me to watch this one in the first place. She gets a few good vamping moments, but again, I feel more could have been made of the character. Alice Coote is good (if overdetermined) as The Prince, and Joyce DiDonato in the title role, fine, but again, this central romance, if you want to call it that, does not overwhelm.

I also think the production didn't really help matters. There's this conceit where the text of the original French story is printed over the background screens, and a few props have big letters on them. This seems like it should be cool in theory--and maybe it is in practice, even--but it feel like a gimmick that just sort of...sits there. Inertly, and you sort of think, well, okay. And? It does not seem to serve the text as well as it could, and nor does the distinctly forced whimsy at the dance, which mainly consists of the women wearing OUTRAGEOUS costumes and the royalty and courtiers doing Silly Walks. I mean...that only goes so far, I feel.

Oh, I don't know, it wasn't painful to sit through or anything, but I strongly suspect that when I get around to it, I will enjoy Rossini's La Cenerentola more.


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