Massenet’s Cendrillon is less often performed than Rossini’s take on the same basic story. I’m really not sure why. Rossini’s take is a bit weird (in a good way), especially in the Ponelle production, but Massenet’s is much more interesting musically. Oddly enough there’s only one version on DVD; a 2011 recording from the Royal Opera House. Fortunately it’s very good. The production is by Laurent Pelly and it has quite a bit in common with his La Fille du Regiment. Here the set is made up of pages from the original syory by Perrault rather than military maps but the effect is similar. Costumes are quite cartoonish (shades of the recent Alice in Wonderland ballet) except for Cendrillon herself, the prince and her father. There’s a strong emphasis on the humorous side of the piece and the “ballets” are thoroughly subverted.
Performances are very strong throughout. I guess most people buy the recording for Joyce DiDonato in the title role but, in my opinion, although she’s very good she’s outsung and outacted by Eglise Gutierrez, who gives a slightly camp but vocally brilliant account of La Fée, and Ewa Podles who is perfectly cast as the pompous step-mother. Alice Coote sings le Prince Charmant and while she’s fine vocally she seems to be doing the Alice Coote pants role thing where she never manages to seem more than about fourteen. Jean-Philippe Lafont also turns in a well characterised performance as Cendrillon’s father. Bertrand de Billy in the pit seems well attuned to Pelly’s concept and gets very agile and musical performances out of the singers while playing up the pomposity where needed.
Video direction is by Olivier Simonnet and it’s unobtrusive. The picture and DTS 5.1 sound are perfectly adequate and there are a bunch of cast interviews offered as extras. There’s no Blu-ray version which seems a bit off for a 2011 recording. Documentation is very basic and there are English, French, Spanish and Italian subtitles. All in all this is well worth seeing and is the only video option if you want to explore Cendrillon.