Opera North’s Cinderella

With theatres most definitely closed by decree and Christmas all but cancelled, here is forty minutes of family fun, for a fiver, to be enjoyed at any time during our isolated festivities.

Ready the children, with a brief explanation of what cinders once were, fashion a wand with which to help the magic along, and join in a four-minute preparatory lesson, by Cinderella herself, to learn this Whistle-Stop
Opera ‘s principal tune.

Throughout, this important melody provides a memorable musical calling card and an opportunity, via subtitles, to sing along with both Cinders and her Prince Charming whenever it occurs.

Julia Mariko Smith‘s Fairy Godmother transports us to the City Varieties theatre in all its revamped splendour. Here, she prepares us for the drama to come, introducing Cinderella and the burdensome stepmother and spiteful puppet sisters.

Amy J Payne as Prince Charming, Julia Mariko Smith as the Fairy Godmother and-Marie Claire Breen as Cinderella rehearsing Whistle Stop Opera Cinderella December 2020

Rachel Szmukler‘s minimalist set includes all the necessary ingredients for the storyline: the palace set upon a distant hill, an oak tree of creeping significance from long ago, a kitchen stool on which to muse and dream.

Soprano Marie Claire Breen, as Cinderella, shares with us the misery of unreasonable daily chores and her aspirations for a better life. With a helping hand of enchantment from the audience, our heroine attends the ball. Amy J Payne, as the Prince, her obvious loneliness imparting more depth to the part than is the custom, has her head suitably turned. Their love duet is the tender moment of the tale.

As guests ourselves, we are invited to take the floor to dance. With midnight’s shocking tolling and the dream falling to dust, writer John Savournin‘s take on this familiar fare departs from that of the story book we know. Perhaps the trickery proves a clever spell, since knitting up this ravell’d sleeve will keep us on our seat edge until the end …

Philip Voldman plays the piano accompaniment with a sympathetic discretion, letting the voices take the lead. Bryn Parish, on violin, lends gentle affection and pathos to moments where such attributes are needed. The vocal lines are sourced from Rossini (1817), via Massenet and Viardot (c. 1900) to Rodgers & Hammerstein (1958). The tacit suggestion is that differentiating each song’s origin, at least by date, should be easy, but each clever choice is woven seamlessly, with its instrumental complement, into a satisfying whole.

The final triumphant trio, love’s conquest over adversity, brings our tale to its familiar happy conclusion.

Altogether, this is a successful meld of operetta, musical and pantomime, a happy amalgam guaranteed to provide yuletide entertainment for everyone in the household. In English, with English sub-titles.

A cautionary note: though the Company is working hard to resolve the issue, ON acknowledges that there may be a glitch in downloading the production using the latest version of Google Chrome. If you encounter problems there are suggestions of possible remedies to try. I solved mine by trying it out on Safari or Firefox.

Opera North’s Cinderella streams on demand until midnight on 4 January 2021.

Photographs provided by Opera North. Feature image is Julia Mariko Smith as The Fairy Godmother.

Leeds Living