This production of Cinderella by Massenet, which mixes classicism and modernity, marks the return after a long absence of four artists and the debut at Bastille by four others.
Paris Opera presents a new production of Cinderella by Massenet, a work that, like Charles Perrault’s narrative, combines humor with a certain melancholy. For his return to the Paris Opera (after Hansel and Gretel in 2013), Mariame Clément throws the plot into the budding modernity of the passage to the 20th century (when the work was created). Madame de la Haltière’s home is thus occupied by a huge machine for marrying young women: her daughters enter on one side in city clothes and come out on the other in giant candy-pink dresses (worn by all the prince’s suitors). The majestic Royal Palace resembles a miniature Grand Palace (inaugurated in 1900) with its wrought-iron windows. The enchantment thus plunges into industrial rationality, the logic being pushed to its climax when the fairytale forest is transformed into a gloomy and dirty factory cellar.
In her direction of actors, Mariame Clément brings a welcome imagination and highlights Massenet’s desire to make her characters – even the most caricatured – human. The two sisters, not so bad in the original libretto, are even endearing here: a little awkward and clumsy, they are also playful, smiling and even adorable with Cinderella, which they are busy with when the latter is sick in the last act. Madame de la Haltière is certainly slanderous and openly unbearable for her husband Pandolfe, but her desire to do good for her daughters almost seems to be able to redeem her.
In a cast that offers fine French diction in all roles, Tara Erraught (Iphigénie at Garnier last September but debuted at Bastille) is Cinderella. Her velvety soft voice with a light and round vibrato, forms light lines. The voice of Anna Stephany making her debut i loko in Prince Charming, is woven in the same noble taffeta. Its warm timbre remains homogeneous regardless of the register. Its vibrato is well kept, its vocal line is supple, its breath is long. Above all, she draws a captivating character for which the public has empathy. Kathleen Kim (for her debut) sings a mischievous fairy, brilliant in costume and voice. She enjoys the liveliest acclamation in the salutes, and she actually marks by the lightness and agility of her crystalline voice, both fine and powerful.
Lionel Lhote returns to Bastille in Pandolfe, six years after his last production there. Its rich, dull tone, slightly withdrawn in the first act, nurtures a firm voice with radiantly high tones. He is a touching father, with a radiant vibrato that carries beautiful lines, soft and worked. His wife, Madame de la Haltière, is played by Daniela Barcellona (also absent from the stage since 2017), who plays with her size (arrogant) to create comic effects that clearly have fun with her role. She constantly varies the color of her voice, alternately glowing, hard, satin or charcoal.
Cendrillon’s two sisters, Noémie and Dorothée, are sung in a well-coordinated and theatrically invested duet by Charlotte Bonnet (who debuts on these stages) with a fleshy and lively soprano voice, and Marion Lebègue on a deep and warm instrument. Philippe Rouillon lends the king his stony voice, well broadcast. Olivier Ayault is a superintendent of pleasures with a luminous and broad baritone voice and elaborate prosody. The dean of the faculty finds in Cyrille Lovighi a powerful interpreter with a squeezed voice. The Prime Minister is sung by Vadim Artamonov, with a very open bass voice.
Carlo Rizzi, who had no longer conducted the Orchester de l’Opéra national de Paris since 2016 returns to a French repertoire that is (yet) not his specialty. A little pompous in the first bars, the interpretation quickly refines, letting both the melancholy and imagination of the score break through and pulling suspended moments of great sophistication. The choirs turn out to be involved on stage, while retaining a great deal of homogeneity in their interpretation.
The room, which is almost full, is enthusiastic and warmly welcomes all the artists: singer, chef and staging, and bets that many of them will return to these places without waiting too long.