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Jules Massenet: Cendrillon
30 Mar 2008

MASSENET: Cendrillon

Cendrillion, Conte de Fées in 4 Acts
Music composed by Jules Massenet (1842–1912). Libretto by Henri Cain after Perrault.

Jules Massenet: Cendrillon

Simone Blain (Cendrillon), Mireille Berthon (Madame de la Haltière), Jean Guilhem (Le Prince Charmant), Lucien Lovano (Pandolfe), Gilbert Moryn (Le Roi), Paule Touzet (La Fée), Germaine Parat (Noémie), Denise Scharley (Dorothée), Chœur et Orchestre Radio-Lyrique, Jules Gressier (cond.)
Live performance, 25 December 1943, Paris


First Performance: 24 May 1899 at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Principal Characters:

Cendrillon Soprano
Madame de la Haltière, her stepmother Mezzo-Soprano or Contralto
Le Prince Charmant Falcon or Soprano de sentiment
La Fée Soprano léger
Noémie, stepsister of Cendrillon Soprano
Dorothée, stepsister of Cendrillon Mezzo-Soprano
Pandolfe, Cendrillon’s father Basse chantante or Baryton
Le Roi Baryton
Le Doyen de la Faculté Tenor
Le Surintendant des plaisirs Baryton
Le Premier Ministre Basse chantante or Baryton


“Cendrillon is the Massenet opera most readily approachable by those with reservations about his idiom. His musical sense of humour, all too seldom given full rein, is here at its frothiest, and liberally spiced with dry Gallic wit. Variety is assured by the four distinct soundworlds conjured up to tell the fairy-tale: the vigour and pomp of the court music, with Massenet’s best dance numbers apart from Le Cid and affectionate pastiche of classical forms from the ages of Lully and Rameau; the music for the fairy world, which has the airiness and harmonic savour of Mendelssohn crossed with Richard Strauss, both in their E major mode; the writing for Cendrillon and Pandolfe, showing Massenet at his most artlessly economical to match the simple virtues they represent; and the love music, which in its heavily perfumed chromaticism reminds one constantly how well Massenet knew his Wagner (as a student he may have played percussion in the Opéra orchestra at the famous Tannhäuser fiasco of 1861, and there are distinct echoes of the Bacchanale in Act 2 of Cendrillon). The mystical marriage of Act 3 is one of the composer’s most succulent love scenes.” Rodney Milnes: 'Cendrillon (ii)', Grove Music Online (Accessed 31 May 2006).

Click here for the complete libretto.


Act I
Setting Chez Madame de la Haltière
Summary In the hope of attracting the Prince’s attention, Madame de la Haltière and her daughters dress and leave for the ball. Pandolfe bitterly regrets his remarriage but nevertheless accompanies his wife, heartbroken though he is to leave Cinderella to her miserable lot. The girl unenthusiastically returns to her chores but soon falls asleep. While Cinderella is sleeping, the Fairy Godmother uses the opportunity to dress the girl in a magnificent gown, putting a glass slipper on her foot so that she will not be recognized. Cinderella promises to return at midnight and leaves for the ball.
Scene 1 Servantes et Serviteurs — On Appelle ! On Sonne !
Pandolfe — Continuez . . . ce n’est que moi
Scene 2 Pandolfe — Du côté de la barbe est la toute puissance
Scene 3 Mme de la Haltière et ses filles — Faites-vous très belles, ce soir
Mme de la Haltière (Temps de menuet) — Prenez un maintien gracieux
Scene 4 Les Domestiques — Ce sont les modistes ! ce sont les tailleurs !
Mme de la Haltière — De sa robe, il faut que les plis
Pandolfe — Félicitez-moi donc de mon exactitude
Mme de la Haltière, Noémie, Dorothée, Pandolfe — De la race, de la prestance, de l’audace !
Scene 5 Cendrillon — Ah ! que mes sœurs sont heureuses !
Cendrillon — Reste au foyer, petit grillon
Cendrillon — Comme la nuit est claire !
Le sommeil de Cendrillon
Scene 6 La Fée — Douce enfant, ta plainte légère
Sylphes et lutins La Fée — Je veux que cette enfant charmante
La Fée — Pour en faire un tissu magiquement soyeux
Les Esprits — Tous les petits oiseaux nous préteront leurs ailes
Cendrillon — Que vois-je ? Ah ! suis-je folle !
La Fée — Écoute-bien . . . quand sonnera minuit
La Fée et les Esprits — Partez, Madame la Princesse
Act II
Setting Chez le Roi
Summary The guests try unsuccessfully to entertain the melancholy Prince. Ballet. Cinderella’s entrance attracts great attention. The young Prince and the girl fall in love at first sight, but soon midnight strikes and Cinderella must leave.
Scene 1 Luth, viole d’amour et flûte de cristal (Concert mystérieux)
Surintendant des plaisirs, Doyens, Ministres, Courtisan et Docteurs — Que les doux pensers
Scene 2 Le Prince Charmant — Cœur sans amour, printemps sans roses
Scene 3 Entrée du Roi — Mon fils, il vous faut m’obéir
Les Filles de noblesse — (Première entrée du ballet)
Les Fiances — (Deuxième entrée)
Les Mandores — (Troisième entrée)
La Florentine — (Quatrième entrée)
Le Rigodon du Roy — (Cinquième entrée) Ah ! nous sommes en sa présence !
Arrivée de Cendrillon — Voyez ! l’adorable beauté !
Scene 4 Le Prince Charmant — Toi qui m’es apparue
Cendrillon — Pour vous, je serai l’inconnue
Le Prince Charmant — Je te perdrais !
Cendrillon — Vous étes mon Prince Charmant
Le Prince Charmant — Eh ! bien . . . laisse la main la mienne
Le Prince Charmant — Suis-je fou ? Qu’est-elle devenue ?
Premier Tableau
Setting Le Retour du Bal
Summary In her haste, Cinderella loses her slipper. Returning home, Madame de la Haltière expresses her delight at the Prince’s seeming coolness which caused the unknown girl to flee from the ball. Cinderella is overcome with emotion. Regaining her senses, she evokes her dead mother and, weary of life, rushes beneath the Fairies’ oak to die.
Scene 1 Cendrillon — Enfin, je suis ici
Cendrillon — A l’heure dite, je fuyais
Scene 2 Mme de la Haltière, Noémie, Dorothée — C’es vrai ! Vouse étes, je vous le déclare
Mme de la Haltière — Lorsqu’on a plus de vingt quartiers
Cendrillon — Racontez-moi . . . qu’a dit alors le fils du Roi ?
Pandolfe — Mais ma fille pâlit !
Scene 3 Pandolfe — Ma pouvre enfant chérie ! Ah ! tu souffres donc bien ?
Pandolfe — Vienx ! nous quittterons cette ville
Cendrillon — Maintenant, je suis mieux
Scene 4 Cendrillon — Seule, je partirai, mon pere
Cendrillon — Adieu, mes souvenirs de joie et de souffrance
Deuxième Tableau
Setting Au Chéne des Fées
Summary Unable to see each other, the lovers recognize one another by their voices. They implore the Fairy Godmother to remove the bush which she had placed between them. The Prince and Cinderella fall asleep in each other’s arms.
Scene 1 Voix des Esprits — (Chœur invisible)
La Fée — Fugitives chimères, ó lueurs éphémères
Les Gouttes de rosée
Les Esprits — Mais, là-bas, au fond de la lande obscùre
Scene 2 Cendrillon, le Prince Charmant — A deux genoux, bonne marraine
Le Prince Charmant — Vous qui pouvez tout voir et tout savoir
Cendrillon — Une pauvre áme en grand émoi
Le Prince Charmant — Tu me l’as dit, ce nom
La Fée — Aimez-vous, l’heure est brève
Act IV
Premier Tableau
Setting La Terrasse de Cendrillon
Summary Pandolfe emotionally witnesses his daughter’s convalescence. It is announced that the Prince is seeking the owner of the mysterious slipper. Cinderella regains hope.
Scene 1 Matinée de Printemps
Cendrillon — Je m’etais rendormie
Pandolfe — Tu riais . . . tu pleurais . . . sans motif et sans trève
Cendrillon — Hélas, j’ai donc rêve !
Scene 2 Voix de jeunes filles — Ouvre ta porte et ta fenétre
Cendrillon, Pandolfe — Printemps revient
Scene 3 Entrée de Mme de la Haltière — Avancez ! Reculez !
Mme de lat Haltière — Apprenez qu’aujourd’hui l’ordre de notre Roi
La voix du Héraut — Bonnes gens, vous êtes avertis
Cendrillon — Mon rêve était donc vrai !
Deuxième Tableau
Setting Chez le Roi — La Cour d’Honneur
Summary March of the Princesses. The Prince recognizes Cinderella and his love of life is renewed. Madame de la Haltière falls into Cinderella’s arms. “A happy ending is here for all,” concludes Pandolfe.
Sequence Marche des Princesses
La Foule — Salut aux Princesses ! Salut aux Altesses !
Le Prince Charmant — Posez dans son écrin sur un coussin de fleurs
La Fée — Prince Charmant, rouvrez les yeux
Cendrillon — Vous êtes mon Prince Charmant
Pandolfe et les Chœurs — Ici tout finit, la pièce est terminée

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