|Maeve Stier and Luke Smith|
Viardot (1821-1910) was a famous mezzo-soprano who studied singing with her mother, piano with Franz Liszt, and composition with Antoine Reicha. She enjoyed a successful career in Europe and Russia and set up a renown intellectual salon in Paris, hosting the eminent composers and writers of the day from Berlioz and Chopin to Dickens and Turgenev. In her later years, Viardot taught singing and composed around 200 songs and a number of operettas. Her “Cendrillon,” which she wrote in 1894, is an elegant and witty retelling of "Cinderella."
|Maeve Stier and Megan Uhrinak|
The salon continued in the spirit of a variety show. Cellist Hasan Abualhaj gave an outstanding performance of the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suit No. 1 in G major. This was followed by a series of charades in which the audience guessed which opera was pantomimed (“Tosca,” “The Barber of Seville,” “Carmen,” and “Romeo and Juliet”). An elegant dance featuring two PSU students and a game musical chairs involving to participants from the audience then led to Madame Viardot (Megan Uhrinak) handing out sheets of music for an impromptu performance of “Cendrillon” to her salon guests.
At one point, the freeze-frame action added a touch of poignancy, but that was balanced with excellent humor throughout the production, including a reverse-dance sequence, disco-mirror-ball projections, stuffed mice instead of horses, and toy lizards for footmen. Excellent diction by the singers conveyed the text, in English, very clearly so that no projected titles were needed, and the piano trio (pianist Dillard, violinist Jonathan Gray, and cellist Abualhaj) accompanied the singers with great sensitivity.
The production of “Cendrillon” once again proved that Christine Meadows, director of PSU Opera, has an uncanny ability to find works that match up very well with each new crop of students in the PSU Opera program. She has the magic wand!