Massenet’s fairytale opera entered Glyndebourne via the company’s 2018 tour. Fiona Shaw’s production didn’t quite work on that occasion, and is now described as “revived and directed for the festival by Fiona Dunn”.
Though there’s been some wider editing of extraneous visual elements, much of the original is retained; however, the choreography – previously one of the least successful elements – has been replaced.
Particularly intriguing is the burgeoning same-sex romance between the two central characters, Danielle de Niese’s Cinderella and Kate Lindsey’s Prince Charming: Massenet scored both roles for sopranos (Lindsey is nominally a mezzo, but let’s not quibble), and they were originally played by women, so no alteration to the gender of the performers or the composer’s notes is involved.
The Shaw/Dunn staging reimagines Prince Charming as a kind of fantasy creation of Cinderella’s, drawn from her family’s maidservant, and their eventual coming together is both touching and sensitively realised.
De Niese and Lindsey match each other perfectly. As Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, Armenian soprano Nina Minasyan delivers dozens of high notes with elfin expertise.
Agnes Zwierko enacts Cinderella’s selfish stepmother with a fine sense of parody, though she’s a bit flat vocally, while Lionel Lhote is impeccable as Cinderella’s ineffectual father, Pandolfe.
There’s top-quality playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the pit, while conductor John Wilson makes an endless delight of the enchanting candyfloss score; and there’s enough magic and fairy dust in the show’s visuals and its overall execution to keep the children in us all happy ever after.