For its spring Eastman Theatre presentation, Eastman Opera Theatre has chosen Cendrillon (Cinderella) by Jules Massenet. The story of Cinderella has inspired composers from Rossini and Prokofiev to Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim, but Massenet’s musical treatment of this fairy tale is especially imaginative and romantic—and also a wonderful introduction to opera for all ages.
When Cendrillon was first presented at the Paris Opéra-Comique in 1899, Massenet was the most successful opera composer in France, with such popular works as Manon and Werther to his credit. Audiences also acclaimed Cendrillon, which was called “a moonlit masterpiece” and “a cornucopia of musical riches.”
Performances since its successful premiere have been rare, but Eastman Opera Theatre offers a chance to hear this opulent work in America. Sung in French, this production will incorporate English surtitles. Common in many opera houses, surtitles are lyrics projected above the stage. This feature is made possible by a generous gift from the Friends of Eastman Opera.
Ted Christopher, Assistant Professor (Teaching) of Opera at the Eastman School, is stage director of Cendrillon, with musical direction by Benton Hess, Eastman’s distinguished professor of voice, who will also conduct the Eastman Philharmonia in the pit.
While the story of Cendrillon is a familiar one—Cinderella and her Prince Charming do end up living happily ever after—Christopher says that Massenet’s music makes it a special experience. “What is different is hearing this story told in this musical language—lyrical, extraordinarily lush, the full flower of Romanticism,” says Christopher. The director also describes Cendrillon as “a treat for the eyes and ears,” referring to this production’s lavish costumes and sets.
Performances of Cendrillon are Thursday April 6, Friday April 7, Saturday April 8 at 8 p.m., and Sunday April 9 at 2 p.m., in the Eastman Theatre. Tickets are $15, with discounts to University of Rochester ID holders, and are available at the Rochester Philharmonic Box Office, 108 East Avenue (10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday), or by calling 585/454-2100. Any unsold tickets will be available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office one hour before the start of each performance.
For those interested in learning more about Cendrillon in advance, the Friends of Eastman Opera will sponsor three pre-performance talks that are free and open to the public. These talks, presented by Professor Russell Miller from Eastman’s voice department, will be held in Room 120 of the Eastman School on Friday (April 7), Saturday (April 8), and Sunday (April 9). Each talk begins one hour before curtain time.
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