Julius Rudel / Frederica Von Stade

Massenet: Cendrillon

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Massenet's Cendrillon (Cinderella) has never gotten a strong foothold in the repertoire, but it's a real charmer that reveals Massenet at his most inventive and highlights his gift as a comic composer. Massenet's music is consistently elegant, and when necessary, goofy in a way that recalls the best of Arthur Sullivan, with some delectable ensembles. The libretto, by Henri Cain, is derived fairly straightforwardly from the Perrault tale, but with the villains' meanness minimized and with a few quirky twists. Massenet's most eccentric contribution to the retelling is making Prince Charming a trousers role for a soprano, which must certainly have added to the fantasy-like quality of the opera. In this recording, tenor Nicolai Gedda takes the role of the Prince, in what was probably a decision to make the opera more "realistic." Gedda sings beautifully, but the listener is left wondering how it would have differed if it had been performed according to the composer's intentions. The rest of the cast is beyond reproach. Frederica von Stade was in her heyday when the recording was made in 1978; she projects the girlishness that's just right for the role and her singing is ravishing -- pure and lustrous, with beautifully nuanced phrasing. Sadly, this is one of the few recordings soprano Ruth Welting made, and she is scintillating in the coloratura role of the Fairy. Veteran Jane Berbié shines as the Stepmother and is obviously having a wonderful time in the comic role. Julius Rudel leads the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Singers in a fleet performance that emphasizes the opera's delicacy and humor. The sound engineers occasionally move the singers away from the microphones in an overzealous attempt to re-create the ambience of the theater, so the voices are sometimes distant. This recording is excellent enough to make the opera lover wish Cendrillon were seen more frequently, and in a version that reflects the original casting requirements.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Cendrillon, opera in 4 acts
1 01:43
2 02:24
3 04:28
4 02:29
5 01:14
6 02:43
7 04:24
8 07:27
9 04:38
10 03:54
11 04:19
12 04:59
13 04:06
14 01:40
15 02:23
16 02:17
17 01:50
18 01:36
19 02:08
20 01:46
21 08:42
blue highlight denotes track pick