This opera features a handful of offstage musicians. How is their role different from that of the pit orchestra?
Massenet wrote some magical effects for instrumental ensembles performed outside the pit at several moments in the opera. In Act Two, there is a delightful trio of flute, viola and harp that represents an onstage divertissement during the ball. In Act Three, harp, celesta and organ join an offstage chorus to create a splendid effect in support of the fairy godmother’s supernatural presence. Trumpets and drums introduce the final scene of Act Four with a brilliant D-major fanfare when Cendrillon and the Prince are reunited.
Robin Guarino named Cendrillon as one of your personal favorite operas. What are some of the reasons that you love this particular opera?
The music is so wonderful! Stylistically, it moves between neoclassical and rococo forms and lush romantic duets. The story is charming and vocally gratifying. I just find it irresistible.
What are some of the challenges that the orchestra students face in learning and performing this opera?
As in most romantic operas, the orchestra must be flexible in terms of tempo and rubato in order to accommodate the singers. There is also the matter of French style that demands beauty of sound and delicacy of timbre.
One of your students, Yael Front, will conduct a matinee performance ofCendrillon. What kind of challenges do conducting students face when working on a piece of this magnitude, and what are a few of the things you expect them to learn or take away from this production?
First, as always, there is knowing and understanding the text, the design of the story and its dramatic arc. Second, there is mastering the style and sound of Massenet’s orchestration. Finally, there is the pliancy of gesture needed to shape phrases and accommodate the singer’s vocalism. All in all, quite a series of challenges, and Yael Front, a brilliant young conductor from Israel, has proven more than up to them.
Do you have anything else you’d like our readers to know about the music in this production?
Come, enjoy, laugh, cry, rediscover the wonder of theatre, fall in love again with theatre through the music of Massenet’s Cendrillon.
CCM presents Cendrillon on Thursday, Nov. 17 through Sunday, Nov. 20 in Corbett Auditorium.