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"Cendrillon"­ by Massenet

Joyce DiDonato, Eglise Gutiérrez, Alice Coote, Ewa Podies, Jean-Phillippe Lafont and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House conducted by Bertrand de Billy - July 2011

 

"One of my most prized opera recordings is a mid-70s CBS set of CENDRILLON with the title role sung to absolute perfection by Frederica von Stade, who embodied everything the role Cinderella requires. Von Stade's signature virtue of charm makes her an ideal Lucette and vocally the role matched very distinctive voice with its beautiful colors, wide range, and elegant French diction. Ruth Welting was another reason for its success. Her La Fee was pure spun honey and she sat on its extreme top range with confidence and musical panache. The rest of the cast, with one glaring exception was ideal. But someone made the fatal mistake of casting a tenor in the role of of the Prince. Gedda sings it as well as can be expected, but it's all wrong. It's a trouser role for a mezzo and his tenor sounds completely out of sorts in this substitution.

More than thirty years later comes this delightful DVD from a Laurent Pelly production at Covent Garden, and it rightfully restores the Prince to the mezzo soprano, and what a mezzo she is. Alice Coote is a perfect prince, besotted by his Cendrillon and singing with power and finesse. The wonderful duets Massenet assigned to the lovers are simply gorgeous here. The supporting cast is excellent with Eglisse Gutierrez a wonderfully worldly La Fee and singing with superb control, the fearsomely funny Eva Podles as the imperious and pompous step mother. My only caveat is Jean-Philippe Lafont's wobbly, unfocused singing, which undermined the tenderness in his one big scene with Cendrillon.

At the center of this confection is Joyce di Donato. I never thought anyone could match von Stade in the part. Ms. DiDonato's is fully her equal with softly lofted pianissimi, a rich tonal pallette, and equally elegant French. Her lower range is a bit more earthy than von Stade's --not a complaint--a compliment in the best sense. Bertrand de Billy's supple conducting is the icing on the cake.

This is superb compliment to the CBS recording and no serious collector should be without both!"

 

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  • Barbel B.

    ps
    To those of you new to the Opera Meetup at the Chapel Hill Seymour Sr. Center - please be aware that most of our members follow us via email alerts from the Seymour Senior Center and their publications. Our average attendance at a performance is between 35 and 50, so never fear of a cancellation because of a low posted confirmation here on the Meetup site.

    March 16, 2013

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