tue 20/11/2018

Cendrillon, Glyndebourne Tour review - too many ingredients in the magic soup | reviews, news & interviews

Cendrillon, Glyndebourne Tour review - too many ingredients in the magic soup

Cendrillon, Glyndebourne Tour review - too many ingredients in the magic soup

Young singers risk getting lost in the clutter of Fiona Shaw's over-loaded production

Cinders in the clutter: Alix Le Saux (centre right) with Adam Marsden as the KingAll images by Bill Knight for The Arts Desk

Supernatural wonders, consciously avoided in Rossini's enlightened tale of goodness rewarded La Cenerentola and unrealised by second-rank composer Isouard in his 1810 Cendrillon, recently uneathed by Bampton Classical Opera, flood Massenet's gem-studded version of the Cinderella story. For a contemporary production to avoid visual representation to match would be foolhardly; but to yoke magic to an alternative narrative can also be confusing. Fiona Shaw's fitfully perceptive but overstuffed cabinet of curiosities is too heavy for the gossamer textures of this total charmer. Young leads and a couple of strong performances elsewhere save the day, even if the musical whole could be more effervescent.

Surely, though, this needs to be a winner to delight the whole family as Glyndebourne tours the country. It could be. Massenet and his librettist Henri Cain put the midnight flight at the central point, with two acts still to go, and younger children might wriggle a bit here, though the scene where Cendrillon/Lucette is reunited with her Prince Charming in a dream-sequence under an enchanted oak is the musical-dramatic climax of the opera, and the one point where everything comes together in this production.Caroline Wettergreen as the Fairy Godmother in CendrillonColoratura soprano Caroline Wettergren as a suitably strange, coolly smoking Fairy Godmother (pictured above) strings together pearls on a line of absolute perfection; the passion of Alix Le Saux's sweet Cinders and Eleonore Pancrazi's impassioned Prince - almost a match for Alice Coote in Laurent Pelly's Royal Opera near-winner - truly ignites. The hall of mirrors which obstructs the progress of a nightmarish ball sequence actually fits the original scenario at this point - and yes, there are real trees, as there weren't in the one weak scene of the Pelly Cendrillon.

Elsewhere, if adults are going to be asking who, where, why and what, how will it be for kids? Who's the dancing man in the dumbshow at the start? Is the ball only an illusion featuring Cendrillon's dream-double (some admittedly pretty/fantastical  symmetries here)? What are the consequences of the "Prince" turning into a serving-maid just when we need to believe that the love is real? Too little can be made out in Anna Watson's over-dark lighting. though I understand the purpose, to create a phantasmagorical space; and Nicky Gillibrand's costumes don't go far enough in terms of grotesquerie for the stepsisters (Eduarda Melo and Kezia Bienek, not given enough help to be funny). Contemporary bling is amusing but doesn't quite match Massenet's neoclassical pastiche in Act One. The dressing-up and later the striptease of their mother, Madame de la Haltière, is genuinely funny, from Eastenders' Pat Butcher to Ivana Trump and back, especially in cahoots with the formidable chest voice of game contralto Agnes Zwierko (pictured below on the right with Bienek, Le Saux and Melo). Agnes Zwierko in CendrillonWilliam Dazeley produces sympathetic tones as Cendrillon's hapless father, but needs more help with characterisation from Shaw; too often you see characters taking up props just for the hell of it rather than out of believable motivation. The ever-dependable Glyndebourne Chorus could do with sharpening up in their servant routines, too, though I like their mixing with the real dancers in a full rendering of the ballroom divertissement (some witty choreography from Sarah Fahie). Duncan Ward's conducting is elegant and keen of movement, but needs a touch more vivacity. There's a lot to sort out before this Cendrillon reaches the main festival next year; let's hope Shaw can be persuaded to strip back some of the business. Less is always more, as Massenet's music enchantingly demonstrates.

Too often you see characters taking up props just for the hell of it rather than out of believable motivation

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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