Timeless Magic with a Twist
Music, Opera, University Center for the Arts | March 24, 2014
CSU Opera Students bring a beloved fairy tale to life with a new spin
By Emma Schenkenberger
The Cinderella story has been told and retold countless times and ways. The Charles and Reta Ralph Opera Center at Colorado State University takes this timeless story and brings it to audiences with the same magic we know and love, but also with some added surprises. CSU’s production of Cendrillon, the classic French opera that premiered all the way back in 1899, has still not lost its ability to delight viewers of all ages. It has all of the elements of opera that people often associate with the art form – high notes, sweeping lines, all in a foreign language; but with a familiar story that appeals to a wide audience. This opera is great for families or anyone who wants to get lost in a magical world of fantasy and dreams set to new melodies most have never heard before.
Compared to the first known version of the “Cinderella” story that was written in 1698, Cendrillon is the first time that many of the renowned aspects of this beloved fairy tale that we know today emerged. The composer, Jules Massenet, made the story more enchanting with the addition of the pumpkin carriage, glass slipper, and the fairy-godmother – all of which were later used in the Walt Disney animated film version. As in the Disney fairytale, audiences should be excited to watch their favorite characters shown in a new light.
The story of Cendrillon follows the same structure and has the same wonderful “happily ever after” ending, but how they get there is a new and exciting journey for many of the characters. Pandolfe, Cendrillon’s father, who is played by senior vocal performance major Arthur Beutel, is an integral part of the opera. Cendrillon is not an orphan, and the relationship between her and her father is a very touching addition. Beutel found magic in the beauty and innocence of the father-daughter bond that is created between Pandolfe and Cendrillon.
The cast and crew are highlighting the magical elements of the story by surrendering to the charmed nature of this fairy tale in every way.
“As a cast and crew we are using costumes, lights, staging, and a bit of our own magic to make this beautiful tale come to life,” said Beutel. “I expect the audience to really be pulled into our world of fantasy by how much fun we are having and how much we all truly believe in the magic.”
From almost cartoon-like, larger than life costumes, to a magnificent set like nothing that has ever been in the Griffin Concert Hall, the entire cast and crew led by director CSU’s Dr. Tiffany Blake, is fully committed to producing an enchanted show for audiences. Dr. Blake says that in no way did she didn’t feel constrained by the possible preconceived notions audiences will have about the story.
“The magic that is such a huge part of the show is only accessible to the characters who have the purity of heart to receive it” according to senior vocal performance major Ashlyn Dunn. “As a stepsister, my character is too self-absorbed to acknowledge or deserve magical assistance.”
These powers of enchantment come to deserving characters like Cendrillon through the classic Fairy Godmother. Audiences will be pleasantly surprised with the Fairy Godmother, whose character is another twist on the well-known story. She isn’t a plump white-haired woman, but rather a powerful and beautiful member of the supernatural realm. She has much more to do with the love story rather than simply making Cinderella a beautiful gown and glass slippers.
Another interesting aspect of this opera is that Massenet composed the role of Prince Charming to be performed by a female. He felt it was important that the love story be one of innocence and not passion. In CSU’s rendition that opens on March 29, the Prince is double cast, played by a female in one cast and a male in the other – a creative choice by Dr. Blake. All of the larger parts in the production are double cast for the safety of the vocalists. The music they are singing is very complex and taxing on the voice. Singing in French is beautiful, but complicated, especially for American English speakers. Massenet also wrote the libretto so that the singer is exposed in much of the vocal music – meaning that the orchestra is often not playing any of the vocalists’ parts, requiring the singers to be very confident in their notes.
CSU’s production of Cendrillon, directed by Tiffany Blake and conducted by Wes Kenney, runs March 29, April 4, and April 5 at 7:30 p.m. and March 30 at 2 p.m in the Griffin Concert Hall at the University Center for the Arts. Audiences will enjoy the innately kind Cinderella, her regretful father, the vulnerable prince, and the ambitious stepmother with her silly daughters, all defined by their distinctive music, brought to life by CSU’s Ralph Opera Center – a wonderful experience to share with everyone.
About the Charles and Reta Ralph Opera Center
The Ralph Opera Center, housed at the state-of-the-art University Center for the Arts, is named in honor of Charles and Reta Ralph in recognition of their generous and continuing support of opera at Colorado State University. The Ralph’s benevolence provides programmatic support and professional development opportunities, as well as a broad scholarship support system for students studying vocal performance. Auditions for the Ralph Opera Center are held at the beginning of each semester and are open to all CSU students. Read more.
The Ralph Opera Center performs two fully staged productions with orchestra each semester, as well as multiple opera scenes programs, spanning the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras. Past presentations include: Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, Benjamin Brittin’s The Rape of Lucretia, Verdi’s Falstaff, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Mozart’s Magic Flute, Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Domenico Cimarosa’s Il segreto matrimonio, Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, and Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience.
For more information and tickets, click here.