Stunning singers and exceptional acting in Glyndebourne’s beautifully told fairy tale

Cendrillon. Picture by Richard Hubert Smith
Cendrillon. Picture by Richard Hubert Smith

Cendrillon (Cinderella), Glyndebourne, until Saturday, November 3

As the curtain rises on Glyndebourne Tour’s Cendrillon, hang on to the sides of your seats.

Dancing, tumbling, exquisite singing, divine music and sets that blow your mind will leave you bothered, bewildered but ultimately thrilled by the end of the performance.

This is one of the most fabulous operas I have seen at Glyndebourne; second only in my (musically unsophisticated) mind to Ravel’s ‘L’enfant et les sortileges’.

Interestingly Cendrillon (Cinderella) is played by Parisian Alix Le Saux who also performed in that magical opera performed at the Festival in 2015.

This Massenet opera premiered at the Opera Comique (Salle Favert) in Paris on May 24, 1899, and critics subsequently said there is a ‘seamless’ quality about his music that seemed to fall out of favour after the Great War. Melodies are glorious and memorable.

And there’s more than a hint of otherworldliness about the staging, which incorporates four proscenium-high glass chambers; sometimes containing mirrors, sometimes a ballroom, sometimes a forest.

It’s a theatrical masterpiece and thankfully neither sets nor stunning costumes overwhelm the voices.

Cendrillon’s mezzo is thrillingly clear and resonant while other performers bring exceptional acting and even burlesque to their roles (check Agnes Zwierko as Madame de la Haltiere. She’s wound into her ballgown with a roll of clingfilm and plays the stepmother deftly so we laugh with her, not just at her.)

Ugly Sisters, Edwarda Melo (Noemie) and Kieza Bienek (Dorothee) are far from hideous but bounce around enthusiastically without losing their grace. Caroline Wettergreen is the Fairy Godmother and brings authority and kindness to her role with a voice that never ceases to enchant.

With Eleonore Pancrazi as Prince Charming, the opera follows the spirit of pantomime by casting the principal boy as a girl. We grow to love Pandolfe (William Dazeley) who eventually stands up to his terrorising wife and stepdaughters.

The story is too well known to tell here.

There are no live ponies, no carriage, no white mice but light and shade tromp d’oeil make up for that.

Once again the Prince’s girl comes out of the blue. Now where have we heard that before?

Cendrillon and La Traviata head to Canterbury, Norwich, Woking and Milton Keynes this autumn and winter.