OperaReviewSouth East

Glyndebourne – Cinderella (Cendrillon) – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Director: Fiona Shaw

Reviewer: Lu Greer

The classic fairy-tale Cinderella, which tells the story of the sweet Cendrillon living in servitude to her harsh stepmother and foul stepsisters before making it to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother, is one known the world over. Jules Massenet’s fairytale which brings colourful characters, beautiful orchestral scores and enchanting melodies, is directed here by Fiona Shaw (currently of Killing Eve fame and previously director of 2013’s Rape of Lucretia). Shaw has been quoted as saying that “[her] job is to tell [the story] in a new way”, which she attempts to achieve here with modernised plots and some revised perspectives on gender.

We are introduced to Cendrillon (Jennifer Witton) as she gazes into the fire and begins to dream her story, with one of her serving girls becoming her prince. Witton makes for a graceful central character, who has a natural chemistry with Elénore Pancrazi’s Prince which is particularly evident during their extended love duet and makes for a touching moment. Outshining both of them, and the rest of the cast is Soprano Caroline Wettergreen as the Fairy, who dominates the stage whenever she appears.

While the cast are strong, the production feels uneven as it attempts to “do something different” with such fervour that the adaptations which would have brought new strengths to the production, such as the new look at the Prince, are swamped by shoehorned in considerations of the ramifications of innocence and a look at fairytale on the whole. The set by Jon Bausor is visually interesting with twisting towers and a dream sequence hall of mirrors, although they do feel rather clunky and at odds with the grace of the music.

The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra brings Massenet’s sticky sweet score to life with subtlety and grace. This is, unfortunately, rather at odds with Shaw’s rather dim aesthetic on the stage and makes for a sometimes jarring juxtaposition.

This is, overall, an unevenly directed performance which attempts to make some very compelling and interesting points but just slightly overreaches and tries to do too much in one go. This show does have a little magic in its wand though, in the form of the exemplary music and voices which fill the theatre. The combination of strong performers and a confident and subtle orchestra capture what can be so wonderful about a Glyndebourne opera: that no matter what else happens, for the time the audience are in their seats, the magic of the music will shine through.

Runs until 17 November 2018 | Image: Richard Hubert Smith

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