Pauline Viardot (1821-1910)

Opéra comique in three acts

Libretto by the composer based on the story of Cendrillon

Sung in French with English surtitles

First performance 13 April 1904, Salon of Mademoiselle de Aogueiras

From Rossini's La Cenerentola to Massenet’s Cendrillon, the repertoire is rich in Cinderella operas. Among the most interesting besides those two great works is the Cendrillon of Pauline Viardot (1821–1910), a miniature operetta written in old age and requiring only a handful of voices and piano. As well as being an elegant retelling of Pérrault’s classic fairy tale, it is – thanks to Viardot’s fascinating life story – a work that pulls together many threads of 19th-century Parisian musical life.

Hardly anyone was better connected than Viardot, in the most positive sense of the word. Her father was Manuel Garcia, the Spanish tenor for whom Rossini had composed the role of Almaviva in his Il barbiere di Siviglia. Her sister was the celebrated soprano Maria Malibran. In her own right, the mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot became famous for her performances of Gluck, premiered Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, created the role of Fidès in Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète and was the dedicatee of Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila. Viardot was a fine pianist too, having studied with Liszt as a child, and she was close friends with George Sand and Chopin, delighting the Polish composer when she arranged some of his mazurkas as songs. She sang at Chopin’s funeral in 1849, in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem – just as she had nine years earlier at Napoleon’s funeral.

Viardot was also the muse of the great Russian writer Turgenev, who produced several librettos for her operettas, some of which enjoyed great success. It’s thought unlikely that any of Turgenev’s words found their way into Cendrillon, as he died some 20 years before its premiere, though it is possible that this operetta was composed sometime before it was first performed in 1904. Viardot had of course been a celebrated interpreter of Rossini’s Cenerentola, but her version of the story possesses its own light, distinctive touch.

Clayton Whites Hotel  | TICKETS €30

Thursday 24 October | 3.30 p.m.

Tuesday 29 October | 3.30 p.m.

Friday 1 November | 3.30 p.m.