I had the delight of attending a Wednesday afternoon performance of French composer Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon at Lyric Opera of Chicago. This production is everything one would want in opera. It was romantic and humorous, charming and captivating, beautiful and moving. I had never attended a Lyric performance on a weekday afternoon and what was most impressive were the numbers of young people from many different schools. There was a “French Connection” to the schools. What a lovely win-win. These young people have an experience they are likely to always remember and it builds a connection to opera such that these young people may be the opera supporters of the future.
French Teacher, Suzanne Giacotto kindly shared the following-
Here are some student testimonials and I am very proud to share that when polled, 82% of the students would love to return to the opera in the future and 100% of them were intrigued with the staging and costumes! The outing was inspired by our IB unit of inquiry about music which, coupled with French language, gave students a new cultural genre to explore. The students were accompanied by Marjorie Blettry, Anne Berviller both French Teachers, Chris Roebuck, GEMS Music Teacher, and Mandarin teachers from China, Wei Zhou and Yan Liang.
These are a sampling of the reactions from GEMS World Academy Chicago French middle and high school students afternoon at the Lyric Opera for “Massenet’s Cendrillon” on Wednesday.
“I was surprised by all of the kissing.
My favorite seen was when the women were trying to fit into the glass shoe.”
“J’étais surpris par la confiance des acteurs pendant les comiques de situations.
Ma scène favorite était la première moitié du bal avec les femmes en robes rouges parce que c’était très drôle.”
“J’étais surprise par la robe de Cendrillon. Elle était très grande et belle. Aussi, j’étais surprise que Cendrillon était plus grande que le Prince. Ma scène favorite était la fin parce que j’ai aimé le chant.”
I was pleased that the restaurants and pre-opera lecture are in place for the afternoon performances. After a lovely lunch at the Florian Opera Bistro, we proceeded to the pre-opera talk offered by Dramaturg, Roger Pines. This was half an hour, beginning an hour before the opera starts His “compare and contrast” between Italian, Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola and French, Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon was insightful and enhanced the opera experience. While the opera titles have the same meaning, girl of the ashes, (Cinderella). Rossini’s heroine is Angelina, while Massenet’s is Lucette. New to Chicago, this beloved production of Cendrillon is making its premiere at Lyric, and the opera itself has not graced Chicago since 1911, though it’s very first US performance was in New Orleans. Charles Perrault and the brothers Grimm gave the world stories that have stood the test of time from 1628 including, Mother Goose, Red Riding Hood and so on, inspiring other works. Cinderella and her Prince Charming have been seen in movies, dance, and literature. This production introduces an unforgettable element in addition to the beautiful music, exquisite voices, charming choreography and dance, and perfect sets. The costumes took on a life of their own and almost upstaged everything else.
With the huge, talented cast, this is a production is perfect for young and old, newbies and experienced, everyone. Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg makes her American debut as Cinderella, English mezzo-soprano Alice Coote plays the energetic and passionate prince, and Quebecoise soprano Marie-Eve Munger (Lyric debut) sings stratospherically high notes as the fairy godmother. Cinderella’s tenderhearted father Pandolfe is sung by Australian bass-baritone Derek Welton (Lyric debut). American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop (Lyric debut) plays the imperious stepmother, while Ryan Opera Center singers Emily Pogorelc and Kayleigh Decker play the absurdly funny stepsisters. The voices were exquisite.
Sir Andrew Davis conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra, and Francesco Milioto will make his Lyric Opera debut conducting the January 11th performance of Cendrillon.
The amazing hyper-theatrical costume designs by Laurent Pelly will long be remembered. Barbara de Limburg’s clever set designs, in which the storybook pages and words surrounded the action were wonderful and added to by some additional scenes that were simply beautiful. (The renowned director-costume designer and set designer are both French and both making Lyric debuts.) Duane Schuler‘s lighting designs enhanced the magical atmosphere.
Lyric Opera Chorus, prepared by chorus master Michael Black offered some of the most stunning scenes in the opera. The original choreography for the ball scene, which was fantastic, was by Laura Scozzi, with revival choreography by Karine Girard (both Lyric debuts).
With only four more chances to see this fantastic production, get tickets -NOW!
Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes with 1 intermission: Enjoy an exceptional live experience in the beautiful surroundings of the Art-Deco theater and foyer.
- Sung in French with projected English translations.
- Six performances Dec. 1, 5, 8, and Jan. 11, 17, and 20 at Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Performance dates in bold are 2pm matinees. Weekend evening performances start at 7:30 pm and please note the earlier start time for weeknight performances at 7:00 pm.
- For more information and to order tickets, visit lyricopera-Cendrillon or call 312-827-5600. Tickets start at $69 and special children’s ticket prices ($20-$50) are available to order by phone.
- For information about pre-performance dining options at Lyric, visit lyricopera-dining to learn about on-site restaurants, pop-up sushi bar, beverage service, and more.
Photos: Todd Rosenberg for Lyric Opera of Chicago, unless otherwise noted.
Note: GEMS World Academy Chicago opened in the Lakeshore East neighborhood in 2014 as an International Baccalaureate school serving preschool through grade 12.
World language instruction (Spanish, French or Mandarin) is a key component of our curriculum; students have language class every day from preschool on up. Another key part of our approach is what we call Field Studies, which are focused explorations of the people, neighborhoods and institutions of Chicago. The group at the Opera were Upper School students during a Field Study to the Lyric Opera they were doing for French class.