Joyce DiDonato as Cendrillon and Eglise Gutierrez as La Fée, Cendrillon, Santa Fe Opera, directed by Laurent Pelly, sets by Barbara de Limburg, costumes by Laurent Pelly and Jean-Jacques Delmotte, photo by Ken Howard © 2006
Eglise Gutierrez as La Fée, Cendrillon, Santa Fe Opera, directed by Laurent Pelly, costumes by Laurent Pelly and Jean-Jacques Delmotte, photo by Ken Howard © 2006
Delphine Seyrig as the Fée des Lilas, Peau d'âne (1970), directed by Jacques Demy
The various sets and effects were luscious and magical. In the sleep ballet in Act I, tiny starlike lights twinkle from the walls among Perrault's words, as the troop of servants in the starkly empty house become the sprites and fairies who attend La Fée, disappointingly without any change of costume. The carriage, its shape derived from the French word for carriage, is drawn by two supernumeraries with horse heads. At scene changes, the walls angle backward and forward to create new spaces. Rolling set pieces make entrances and exits through the paired doors on either side to create a balcony, Cendrillon's dingy attic bedroom, and a Paris rooftop of smoking chimneys. The latter, mysteriously, is the setting of the second tableau of Act III, the enchanted garden where Cendrillon and Le Prince Charmant meet -- described in the libretto as "Chez la Fée (Un grand chêne au milieu d'une lande pleine de genêts en fleurs. Au fond: la mer - nuit claire - lumière très bleutée)." It was a beautiful scene, but the absence of an oak tree, which is supposed to prevent the lovers from seeing one another and is mentioned several times by the singers, made a hash of it.
Jennifer Holloway as Le Prince Charmant with ensemble, Cendrillon, Santa Fe Opera, directed by Laurent Pelly, sets by Barbara de Limburg, costumes by Laurent Pelly and Jean-Jacques Delmotte, photo by Ken Howard © 2006
Baritone Richard Stilwell -- a regular in Santa Fe for 30 years -- was a dry-wit Pandolfe, a perfectly timed foil to the imperious stepmother of mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, who made her first appearance at Santa Fe at around the same time as Stilwell. Apprentices Anne-Carolyn Bird and Gabriela Garcia were hysterical as the stepsisters -- Noémie (soprano) and Dorothée (mezzo-soprano), respectively -- with facial expressions, gestures, and vocal characterization evoking the vapid airheads the stepsisters are (not the singers). I was disappointed only with Eglise Gutierrez, a very talented singer whose meaty dramatic soprano did not strike me as well suited to the silvery role of La Fée (her recent work has included Gilda and
Performances of Massenet's Cendrillon are scheduled for August 9, 18, 21, and 24. If you can see only one opera in Santa Fe this summer, this is the one. If you can see two, then pair it with The Tempest.