Pauline Viardot, after Perrault
Buxton International Festival
The Lowry, Salford
February 3-4, 2023; 1 hr 10 mins
(Also Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, February 9-10)
Proudly sporting its four-star ratings in several national newspapers from 2021, Buxton International Festival’s production of Pauline Viardot’s Cinderella began a UK tour at The Lowry last night.
It’s a comic opera (with spoken dialogue and musical numbers) designed for small-scale venues, as there is piano accompaniment only and it needs just seven performers. I’ve looked at the background to the piece and its composer on another page recently.
So what earned it those four-star reviews? The quality of singing and acting in the central four roles, certainly – Olivia Carrell and Flora Macdonald as the sisters, Nikki Martin as Cinderella, and Camilla Seale as Prince Charming.
And perhaps there was a reward for the curiosity value of reviving a long-lost piece by a woman composer from the golden age of opera who was a legend, as a singer, in her own lifetime. It’s short (just over an hour with no interval) and, with the help of the sisters particularly, is genuinely funny.
The production is obviously on a limited budget, but it works: we started after some of the audience had been invited to move to new seats because of the sightlines to the one text display screen for side-titles to the French songs; but Erin Gwyn Rossington (the narrator and Fairy Godmother) soon built rapport with the audience and later revealed a really well-tuned, strong soprano tone.
Olivia Carrell and Flora Macdonald got laughs from the start, and both are very accomplished singers (in the best roles in the piece, actually): their trios with Nikki Martin were well balanced and nicely sung, as was the duet for Nikki Martin and Camilla Seale just before midnight struck at the ball. Iwan Davies accompanied beautifully and directed unobtrusively.
The Lowry marketed the show as “family entertainment”, which was probably a good idea, as “obscure French salon opera” wouldn’t really have cut it, and there were several young families in the audience, who, as far as I could tell, enjoyed both the show and their ice creams and got away for an early night.
More info and tickets here