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Cendrillon (Cinderella) is an opera—billed as a "fairy tale"—in four acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Henri Cain. It was composed in 1894–95 and was first performed at the Opéra-Comiquemarker in Paris on 24 May 1899, at the height of Massenet's success. An immediate hit, with fifty performances in its first season, it is one of Massenet's most charming pieces and, after Manon and Werther, is one of the most frequently performed of his twenty-five operas, although it is not part of the standard operatic repertoire. The libretto is based on Perrault's version of the Cinderella fairy tale, very similar to the version most widely known in the US.

The part of boyish Prince Charming is a breeches role, sung by a Falcon soprano— or "Soprano de sentiment"— according to the libretto, a dark dramatic and characteristically French soprano voice. (In some productions, including the work's only recording, the part has been transposed for a tenor.) This fach is contrasted in Cendrillon's other scenes with the coloratura writing for her fairy godmother. The 18th-century touch that a breeches role brings is echoed in witty pastiche of galante music, such as the trio of lute, viola d'amore and flute that fails to rouse the melancholy and silent Prince Charming at the opening of Act II. There is a bright and worldly ballet, a series of entrées at the ball of princesses who fail to satisfy the Prince, contrasted with the spectral ballet under a "bluish light" in Act IV, where Cain interposes an episode unique to this Cinderella, in which Lucette (as Cendrillon is called) and her Prince are kept apart and tested by the arts of la Fée (Fairy Godmother). Much witty patter tuned to the nuances of French sustains a light atmosphere throughout. The Fairy Godmother's coloratura trills and arpeggios are especially magical.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 24 May 1899
(Conductor: - Alexandre Luigini)
Lucette/Cendrillon (Cinderella) soprano Julia Guiraudon
Madame de la Haltière, stepmother of Cendrillon contralto Marie-Blanche Deschamps-Jehin
Le Prince Charmant (Prince Charming) mezzo-soprano Émelen
La Fée (the Fairy) soprano Georgette Bréjean-Gravière
Noémie, stepsister of Cendrillon soprano Jeanne Tiphaine
Dorothée, stepsister of Cendrillon mezzo-soprano Jeanne Marié de L'Isle
Pandolfe, Cendrillon’s father bass Lucien Fugère
Le Roi (the King) baritone Dubosc
Le Doyen de la Faculté tenor Gourdon
Le Surintendant des plaisirs baritone Étienne Troy
Le Premier Ministre bass Gustave Huberdeau
1rst spirit mezzo-soprano Marie Delorn
2nd spirit soprano Françoise Oswald
3rd spirit soprano Vilma
4th spirit mezzo-soprano Stéphane
5th spirit soprano Craponne
6th spirit soprano Fouqué
A ballerina mute Jeanne Chasles

Selected recordings

See also

For the Italian opera by Gioacchino Rossini, see La Cenerentola.



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