Filters: mine, writing, id=568

Remove all filters


Also published in The Rover.

I asked for it. I spent two seasons nipping Opera de Montreal for its turgid sets and it seems somebody was listening. Somebody powerful, with deep pockets, and an insatiable hunger for the colour pink.

Let this be a lesson: be careful what you wish for.* Massenet’s Cendrillon filled the house on Saturday, a week after its opening, and credit goes entirely to a hallucinogenic production for making the 111-year-old libretto accessible. The singing was something else.

One possible future for opera has productions cribbing staging and choreography from musicals, and this is a calculated risk. Saturday, there was even a 5:1 scale mashup of Grease and Honey I Shrank the Kids, which, between slapstick and circus tricks, livened the hell out of the night. But Disneyfication suits comedy better than tragedy, and Cendrillon’s sets were no exception.

It is easier to turn an allegro into something lively since there is spare rhythm for movement, an opportunity for women to iron while doing the splits, but during a largo the streamlined pink machine loses traction. Because opera, whether you like it or not, tends to reduce to a person singing very loudly and sometimes astonishingly well on a giant stage. Cendrillon wants to go fast on the highway, and plodding through traffic feels just. Like. That.

The singers did what they could: Julie Boulianne was clarion and sweet as Lucelle and Frédéric Antoun as the Prince sustained their serious arias but nevertheless they had me (and my Nonstandard Opera Companion, horrifyingly sober and at her first opera) reaching for fast forward. And they were the strongest voices onstage.

Marianne Lambert as the Fairy Grandmother was all right and her coloratura embellishments acceptably magical until Boulianne did the same thing but effortlessly. Gaétan Laperrière as Pandolfo was more even, though the entire cast seemed to take Act I as a warm-up, but he never reached a particularly clear intensity. It is difficult to summon pathos when you’re singing beside a ten-foot tall blender.

Collateral damage aside, Cendrillon is a great introduction to opera as theatre. It lacks the depth and complexity that moves crowds to the classics, and perhaps that’s all right. I’ll take a full house over an empty one. Renaud Doucet and André Barbe’s staging may have got the attention to the singers’ detriment, but perhaps next time there will be space left over. And that’s called progress.

* I wish for a 40 of bourbon, sent as before “c/o goddamn shack under the park bridge, Westmount, PQ.”