Massenet took the classic story of Cinderella, "sprinkled it with the magic powder of sounds," and conjured opera's most bewitching fairy tale, glass slipper and all.
ACT 1 A state room in Madame de la Haltière's town house
Servants bustle to prepare for the ball. The henpecked Pandolfe wonders why he ever left his country estate to remarry an over-bearing countess with two daughters and pities the lot of his own child Lucette (Cinderella). He leaves as his wife enters to instruct her daughters on strategy and supervise a troupe of milliners, tailors and hairdressers. Pandolfe, late for departure, is not allowed to say goodnight to his child. Cinderella enters and sits by the fire to regret her lot before falling asleep. Her Fairy Godmother appears and orders her attendants to dress Cinderella for the ball. She warns her to leave before midnight, and tells her that the glass slippers are a talisman to prevent her being recognized by her family.
ACT 2 The royal palace
A gaggle of courtiers and an onstage band fail to alleviate the Prince's melancholy. The King orders him to marry and eligible princesses arrive for the Prince's scrutiny. The unknown beauty Cinderella appears to a concertato of general amazement, and the Prince launches a rapturous love-at-first-sight duet. Cinderella responds but as midnight strikes she hurries away.
ACT 3, Scene 1 A state room in Madame de la Haltière's town house
Cinderella relives the glamour of the ball and the terror of her nocturnal flight. The family returns from the ball and Madame de la Haltière disputes Pandolfe's account of the events. According to her, the Prince decisively rejected the bold intruder. Pandolfe notices that Cinderella is about to faint and orders the women from the room. In a duet of great tenderness he promises that he and Cinderella will return to his country seat. When he exits to prepare for the journey, Cinderella gives way to despair: rather than allow her father to share her pain, she decides to run away and die on her own.
ACT 3, Scene 2 A magic landscape around a great oak tree
Fairies and will-o'-the-wisps interrupt their dance as Cinderella and the Prince approach separately, and the Fairy Godmother conjures up a magic arbor so that they may hear but not see each other. After praying to be released from their misery, they recognize each other's voices and reaffirm their love in a mystical ceremony. The Prince hangs his bleeding heart on the oak, and both fall into an enchanted sleep.
ACT 4, Scene 1 A terrace
Pandolfe watches over his sleeping daughter. Months have passed since she was found by a stream half dead with cold. In her delirium she has been singing about the ball, the mysterious oak, the bleeding heart and the missing slipper. None of this ever happened, her father assures her, and she resigns herself to having dreamed it all. Madame de la Haltière enters with the news of a grand international assembly of princesses to try on the missing slipper, and Cinderella joyfully realizes that her dream was true.
ACT 4, Scene 2 The palace
The princesses appear, but the Prince does not recognize any of them as his lost love. Cinderella steps forward and is reunited with the Prince. The opera ends amid general rejoicing.
- Pandolfe - Richard Stilwell
- Madame de la Haltière - Judith Forst
- Noemie - Anne-Carolyn Bird
- Dorothee - Gabriela Garcia
- Cinderella - Joyce DiDonato
- Fairy Godmother - Eglise Gutierrez
- Sprite - Angela Mannino
- Prince Charming - Jennifer Holloway
- Master of Ceremonies - Justin Petersen
- Dean of the Faculty - Keith Jameson
- First Minister - Kevin Murphy
- King - Ricardo L. Lugo
- Herald - Aaron Pegram
- Conductor - Kenneth Montgomery
- Director - Laurent Pelly
- Scenic Designer - Barbara de Limburg
- Costume Designer - Laurent Pelly
- Lighting Designer - Duane Schuler
- Choreographer - Laura Scozzi
- Chorus Master - Kostis Protopapas