An opera charming for the city different

Laurent Pelly’s Cendrillon; photo Karen Almond, courtesy Metropolitan Opera

The Cinderella story has been told in fairy tales, animated movies, feminist action-adventure films, ballets, and multiple operas. Gioachino Rossini’s Italian-language version from 1817 is the most famous; it’s long on romance and comedy, but short on magic, reflecting its Age of Enlightenment point of view.

Composer Jules Massenet premiered his French version, Cendrillon, in Paris in 1899. He restored the sorcery and the charm audiences expect today without stinting on the love story or the laughs. A prominent critic of the time described it as “having been sprinkled with the magic powder of sounds.”

Cendrillon was rarely seen in this country until 2006, when Laurent Pelly’s stylized, borderline-surreal production premiered here and was the surprise glory of the Santa Fe Opera’s 50th anniversary season. It has since been seen in London, Brussels, and Barcelona, as well as the Metropolitan Opera (but not again in Santa Fe, alas).

Witty design touches abound. To cite just two, the carriage that takes Cinderella to the ball is made of enormous letters that spell carriage, in French, of course. Her dress is cindery grey at the bottom, which fades away to a blazing silver-white on top, symbolizing her rise from the ashes.

Now the Metropolitan Opera is reviving the Pelly production in a family-focused, 95-minute version that’s sung in English. Isabel Leonard, seen in Santa Fe in Cold Mountain (2015) and The Marriage of Figaro (2008), is Cinderella. She’s partnered by Emily D’Angelo, who was Dorabella in SFO’s 2019 Così fan tutte. The New York Times said of them, “As their silent glances turn into lyrical exchanges, beautifully sung by Leonard and D’Angelo, these young people truly seem like the answers to one another’s dreams.”

You can expect plenty of laughs from expert singer-comedians Laurent Naouri and Stephanie Blythe as Cinderella’s father and stepmother, and from Jacqueline Echols and Maya Lahyani as her not-even-remotely-charming stepsisters. Laura Scozzi’s choreography adds zany energy to the proceedings.

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