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An Oft Told Tale

Santa Fe Opera's 'Cendrillon'
praised by MARIA NOCKIN


Cendrillon (Cinderella) by Jules Massenet (1842-1912) is a re-telling of the familiar story. As far as we know, the tale was first written down in China during the year 830 by Tuan Ch'eng Shih who referred to it then as an old story. Of the most commonly read versions, a somewhat barbaric one by the Brothers Grimm and a more refined one by the upper class seventeenth century French writer Charles Perrault, the composer and his librettist Henri Cain (1859-1937) chose the latter. Cain also wrote the lyrics for five other Massenet operas as well as the novella that formed the basis for Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac.

Joyce DiDonato as Cinderella at the beginning of Massenet's 'Cendrillon'. Photo © 2006 Ken Howard
Joyce DiDonato as Cinderella at the beginning of Massenet's 'Cendrillon'. Photo © 2006 Ken Howard

Massenet had been a successful composer since 1867 when his first opera, La Grand'tante, graced the stage of the Opéra-Comique for seventeen performances. By 1894, when he began to compose Cendrillon, he had written Manon and Werther and, like his Italian colleagues Puccini and Verdi, he was already famous and wealthy. In order to have an inspirational setting for his work on the new opera, he surrounded himself with tradition in a seventeenth century Norman villa near the Seine.


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Copyright © 27 August 2006 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA


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