On New Year’s Day, the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts another production in its Live in HD series in cinemas throughout the world. On this first Saturday of 2022, the Met features Jules Massenet’s interpretation of one of the world’s favourite fairly tales, Cinderella, in an abridged, English-language version, specially adapted for family audiences – “.… a delight”, according to the New York Times.
This production, directed by Laurent Pelly, has a libretto by Kelley Rourke, and stars mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in the title role, with mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo as Prince Charming, soprano Jessica Pratt as the Fairy Godmother, with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and bass-baritone Laurent Naouri as Cinderella’s feuding guardians, Madame de la Haltièr and Pandolfe. Emmanuel Villaume conducts, and the live cinema transmission is hosted by countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo.
Jules Massenet (1842–1912) – one the leading French operatic composers of the Romantic era – is mainly remembered for the lyrical music which he wrote for more than 30 operas – works such as Manon, Le Cid, Esclarmonde, Werther, Chérubin, Don Quichotte and Cendrillon – and also for his oratorios, ballets, orchestral works, incidental music, piano pieces and songs. The libretto for the original French version of Cinderella – Cendrillon – was written by Henri Cain (1857–1937), a dramatist who based this work on the Cinderella story by French author Charles Perrault. Kelley Rourke, librettist for this Met Opera production, is also a translator and dramaturg, who has collaborated with companies such as English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Washington National Opera, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Glimmerglass Festival.
Laurent Pelly brings a good deal of theatrical experience to his operatic productions, having been Co-Director of Théâtre national de Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées between 2008 and 2018. Naturally drawn to the French and Italian repertoires, he has also explored the work of composers other nationalities – such as Janáček, Rimsky-Korsakov and Prokofiev – and future productions include works by Smetana, Tchaikovsky and Wager. Pelly does costume design for all his productions, and set design for some of them as well.
With her “lustrous voice” (Daily Gazette), Isabel Leonard – a two-time Grammy-winning artist and the 2013 winner of the Richard Tucker Foundation Award – is well known to Met Opera audiences. She has appeared in the title role in Nico Muhly’s Met-commissioned opera Marnie, and the role of Blanche in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites – both of which were screened Live in HD. Ms Leonard’s recent performances also include the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Wiener Staatsoper and that of Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Jessica Pratt – described by the New York Times as a soprano of “gleaming sound …. and lyrical grace” – made her Met debut as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2016. Her performances at festivals and in opera houses around the world include those in productions of Bellini’s I Puritani at Amigos de la Ópera de A Coruña and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Verdi’s La Traviata at Opera Las Palmas and Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann at ABAO in Bilbao.
Emily D’Angelo, with “…. a voice hued like polished teak” says the New York Times, was named a 2020 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist, and is the first and only vocalist to have been presented with the Leonard Bernstein Award from the Schleswig Holstein Festival. Performances this season include house and role debuts as Ottavia in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at Zurich Opera, as Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Semperoper Dresden, Siebel in Gounod’s Faust at Ópera national de Paris, and a role debut as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
Stephanie Blythe has a wide repertoire, ranging from Handel to Wagner, and German lieder to contemporary and classic American song. She made her Met Opera debut in Wagner’s Parsifal in 1995, and has performed in many of the world’s leading opera houses, including Carnegie Hall, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Ópera national de Paris, as well as at San Francisco, Chicago Lyric and Seattle operas. Ms Blythe was the 1999 winner of the Richard Tucker Award, the recipient of an Opera News Award in 2007, and was named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year in 2009.
Laurent Naouri made his debut with the Met Opera as Sharpless in a 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. With a repertoire of around 40 roles, notable engagements include those of the title role in Verdi’s Falstaff at the Met, the four villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Goulaud in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in Aix-en-Provence and Tokyo, and Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata at Santa Fe.
Maestro Villaume has been Music Director of The Dallas Opera since 2013, and Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Prague Philharmonic since 2015. He made his conducting debut at the Met in a 2004 production of Madama Butterfly, and has fulfilled engagements at some of the world’s major opera houses, and with leading symphony orchestras, in cities such as Lucerne, Copenhagen and Monte Carlo, at London’s Royal Albert Hall and the White Nights Festival at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.
The first production of this adaptation of Cinderella took place in early December at Opera Santa Fe. The original full-length production of Cendrillon was produced in French, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona; Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels; and Opéra de Lille.
Emmanuel Villaume leads the soloists, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus in an abridged, family-friendly performance of Massenet’s Cinderella, on Saturday January 1st 2022. The production will be broadcast live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, to cinemas around the world. Find your local cinema screening on this link.
Further information on Cinderella can be found on the Metropolitan Opera website.
Information sourced from Metropolitan Opera program notes