UNIVERSITY OF UTAH LYRIC OPERA ENSEMBLE, Cendrillon, Kingsbury Hall, April 25

Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon was immensely popular when it premiered in 1899, but in the years since fell into neglect, with only occasional revivals.

The University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble, never one to shy away from presenting unusual repertoire, brought Massenet’s captivating work to Kingsbury Hall over the weekend in what, surprisingly, was the opera’s Utah premiere.

Jennifer Erickson as Cinderella (Photo Credit: Emily Nelson)

The talented cast at Saturday’s performance, under the inspired direction of guest stage director Michael Scarola, in his sixth appearance at the U., gave a wonderfully powerful and moving account of the work that captured the sparkle and magic of the music and the story.

The opera demands a vocally skillful group of leads and Saturday’s performance didn’t disappoint. Leading off was Jennifer Erickson in the title role. She has the vocal and acting chops to bring her fairytale character to life and imbue her with feeling, personality and depth. She sang with nuanced and finely crafted expressions and lyricism that made her character real and attractive.

David Sauer also brought some well defined depth and personality to his portrayal of the Prince. His voice has a wonderfully rounded and richly modulated tone and finely expressed lyricism. He, too, was credible in his characterization. Sauer and Erickson were vocally well matched in their duets and there was wonderful chemistry between them.

Emily Nelson was perfectly cast as the Fairy Godmother. She was in total control of her voice as she sang the role’s demanding coloratura passages while presiding over and controlling the proceedings.

As Cinderella’s stepsisters, Michelle Dean (Noémie) and Stania Shaw (Dorothée) were delightful. Their characterizations were spot on as they stumbled along trying to be graceful and charming.

Makenzie Matthews as their mother, Madame de la Haltière, gave a fabulous performance. She captured the depth of her character’s domineering attitude towards her husband and her doting devotion to her daughters.

Daniel Tuutau as Pandolfe, Cinderella’s father, was remarkable. He, too, brought depth and finely molded nuances to his portrayal as the cowering husband and devoted father.

Rounding out the cast of singers were Nathan Curtis as the King; Hunter Olsen as the Dean of the Family; Anders Larson as the Master of Ceremonies; and Garrett Tyler Medlock as the First Minister.

Also wonderful were dancers Alexa Mendenhall and Jon Wyatt Pendleton from the U.’s department of ballet. They were marvelous in the pas de deux from Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella, which was interwoven into the ballroom scene at the royal palace. The inclusion of the dance number worked wonderfully and gave a neat twist to the story.

The Utah Philharmonia, under the baton of Robert Baldwin, played with its usual depth and clarity. Baldwin’s tempos were well chosen and complemented Scarola’s finely tuned pacing.

This entry was posted in CLASSICAL MUSIC, Concert Reviews by Edward Reichel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at ed.reichel@gmail.com. Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

Leave a Reply