Adults and youngsters alike should easily laugh, applaud and fall in love with “Cendrillon,” Jules Massenet’s operatic interpretation of “Cinderella.”
Certainly the version now at the Lyric has been traveling the opera circuit since opening at the Santa Fe Opera in 2006, but the telling clue to its humor is that when it premiered in 1899 it was at Paris’ Opéra-Comique where it was also remounted in 1911.
That the opera is a fairy tale comes across immediately with Barbara De Limburg’s delightful storybook set design.
That this opera, unlike Gioachino Rossini’s operatic drama “Cenerentola” (Cinderella), is a lighthearted version of the familiar fairy tale, becomes obvious with Laurent Pelly’s hysterical, balloon-shaped costumes for the step sisters and the comedic costumes worn by the step mother and other female hopefuls at the prince’s ball.
And that the prince also stepped out of an amusing story book comes across when Pelly, who is also the opera’s director, introduces him as somewhat peevish, uncooperative, hardly charming, pajama-wearing kid in his bed chambers.
Revival choreographer Karine Girard (and original choreographer Laura Scozzi) play up the opera’s nose-thumbing, pseudo-sophistication side with wonderful marching steps by palace couriers and the introduction of females who hope to win the prince.
But humor aside, the Lyric’s Cendrillon is still an opera that requires fine voices. And they are.
English mezzo-soprano Alice Coote is superb in the “trouser” role of the prince and a good contrast (as it should be) to Australian soprano Shobhan Stagg’s quieter, sweet, Cendrillon in her American debut.
Bass-baritone Derek Welton, another Australian making his American operatic debut, convincingly portrays Cendrillon’s comically pathetic father, Pandolfe. And French-Canadian coloratura Marie-Eve Munger stands out in her Lyric debut as the Fairy Godmother.
In the step family, American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop making her Lyric debut is a perfect Mme. De la Haltiere. She’s backed up by daughters Noémie sung by American soprano Emily Pogorelc, and American mezzo-soprano Dorothée sung by Kayleigh Decker, both a Ryan Opera Center members.
As with many fairy tales there still is a poignant side, but the story still turns out well.
Although Rossini’s “Cenerentola” has appeared at the Lyric, Massent’s “Cendrillon” has only now come to town. It’s magic is perfect for the holiday season or anytime.
DETAILS: “Cendrillon” is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago through Jan. 20, 2019. Running time: 2 hrs. 45 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago