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Chelsea Opera Group gave its leading pair good support, with all of Massenet's characters cast from strength. Cendrillon's father, Pandolfe, was sung by Roderick Earle; her stepmother, Madame la Haltiere, by Elizabeth Sikora, and her step-sisters by Anna-Clare Monk and Harriet Williams. With the Fairy Godmother, La Fee, Massenet provided a dizzyingly high coloratura role which contrasted well with the lower lying soprano of Cendrillon. The role was sung with superb aplomb by Judith Howarth.

Wyn Pencarreg was le Roi, the Prince's father, and Adrian Powter and Philip Sheffield provided the voices for the senior courtiers. These were all relatively small roles, but all three singers delivered Massenet's lines in an idiomatic manner. The conductor, Dominic Wheeler, demonstrated his versatility and delivered the spoken role of the Herald with aplomb.

Pandolfe is introduced with a solo whose gentle melancholy imbues the whole part. Roderick Earle was announced as being ill but gamely had agreed to sing. There were moments when he indeed sounded as if he was navigating the role with care, but his command of both Massenet's music and the French language meant that it was a joy to hear him in the role. Massenet is not a composer with which I associate Earle, but on this showing he has an affinity and I look forward to hearing him in other roles when he is back in full voice.

Elizabeth Sikora's step-mother was comic, but without being an out and out old bag, Sikora never let you forget that Madame la Haltiere is a Countess and this is what made the comedy. Madame la Haltiere does not get a solo scene: each time she appears she has her daughters in tow so that they sing a series of trios and ensembles. Massenet's treatment of the step-daughters is reminiscent of Britten's treatement of Auntie's nieces, though, so that Anna-Clare Monk and Harriet Williams seemed to embody two sides of a single character.

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Copyright © 3 June 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK


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