Saturday, 20 August 2011

August Opera Challenge Day Nineteen: Most Visually Entertaining Opera

And now for something completely unexpected- I'm going for Jules Massanet's Cendrillon, specifically the Laurent Pelly production which recently came to the Royal Opera House starring Joyce DiDonato in the title role and Alice Coote as Prince Charmont. I booked to see the opera because I was in London for the two star-studded Toscas and was unable to resist the opportunity to see DiDonato as well. It was a matinee performance, it was chucking it down outside, and Cendrillon was a little bit like walking into a Christmassy wonderland in the middle of a rainy July.

The opera follows the Cinderella story that we're all very familar with, and lends itself perfectly to a spectacular production design. Fiction and reality are blurred with the words of the story enscribed on the walls, and there's a moment when Cendrillon asks if everything she has experienced has been a dream and I wondered if that was going to be the twist. I loved the contrasting colours (pale pastels that twinkle for Cendrillon, regal reds in the royal court) the half-human horses and most of all the wonderful choreography by Laura Scozzi. The moves of the cast had me laughing out loud, and at times it had the feel of a very elegant and sophisticated pantomime (with the addition of some gorgeous music). If the BBC televise this at Christmas (which I'm not sure that they have any plans to do) it will be a lovely treat.

I had never seen a Laurent Pelly production before, but I was absolutely enchanted and would love to experience more of his work, although I suppose it helped that the opera itself was so full of glamour and magic. The matinee I saw was the last performance of the production at the Royal Opera House. That night, I was back in the all-night queue for day tickets for the Sunday Tosca, and during the early hours of the morning, I went on a fruitless search for coffee. As I was walking past the front of the Royal Opera House, I saw the beautiful golden gates featured in the production, folded up and leaning against the glass, ready for transport. I suppose it could have broken the spell, but they were just as impressive close up, and I felt like I'd had a sneaky little nosey at the set. Here's a clip of Joyce taling about Cendrillon on BBC Breakfast, which features a little clip of the dress rehearsal.

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