Massenet

BBC Music Magazine - - Opera -

Cen­drillon (DVD)

Kim-lil­lian Strebel, Anat Czarny, Katha­rina Mel­nikova, Anja Jung, Juan Orozco, Sil­via Regazzo; Freiburg Phil­har­monic Orches­tra/fabrice Bol­lon; dir. Bar­bara Mun­del & Olga Motta (Freiburg, 2017)

Naxos DVD: 2.110563;

Blu-ray: NBD0079V 139 mins Cen­drillon is an ex­otic bloom that needs ten­der care. Opera Freiburg, how­ever, has pulled up Massenet’s minia­ture mas­ter­piece by the roots and it all but dies in front of our eyes. This is a fairy tale about per­sonal lib­er­a­tion for adults, not the left-footed circus fan­tasy cre­ated by Bar­bara Mun­del and her de­signer Olga Motta with its fair­ground booths and hints of the big top, with half the cho­rus dressed as pan­tomime clowns and the rest in black with horned hats – refugees from Faust per­haps. The hap­less Pan­dolfe, Lucette/cen­drillon’s fa­ther, is a knife thrower with the top hat and twirling mous­taches of the ring­mas­ter; melan­choly Prince Charm­ing ap­pears in a white one­sie with a slash of scar­let lip­stick; and the nasty Step­mother and her two pushy daugh­ters are all in de­signer black and trapped in huge white ruffs.

If you can hardly bear to look, you can lis­ten. There’s some ca­pa­ble singing with Kim-lil­lian Strebel’s Lucette/cen­drillon tug­ging at the heart­strings in her open­ing aria ‘Reste au foyer, petit gril­lon’ just as Massenet and his li­bret­tist ★enri Cain in­tended. And her grief when she be­lieves that she has lost the Prince, that their mag­i­cal en­counter in the woods was just a dream is deeply touch­ing. Anat Czarny is a ser­vice­able Charm­ing, and both she and Strebel make the most of their duet in the for­est – the high point in Massenet’s score. Katha­rina Mel­nikova is a sparkly-voiced Fairy God­mother and Anja Jung reaches deep into her ch­est reg­is­ter as the mon­strous Madame de la ★al­tière. (Didn’t Pan­dolfe see what was ahead when he mar­ried her?)

Massenet’s score needs a con­duc­tor with an ear for de­tail who un­der­stands that the drama is in the orches­tra. Fabrice Bol­lon does his best to sig­nal the com­poser’s sou­venirs of the French Baroque, of Men­delssohn and, of course Wag­ner, but a more del­i­cate touch would have been wel­come. This, af­ter all, is an opéra féerie not a circus. Christo­pher Cook PER­FOR­MANCE

PICTURE & SOUND

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