OPERA / Cendrillon - RNCM, Manchester

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The Independent Culture
To characterise Massenet's style as anything other than 'saccharine' is not easy; but his opera on the Cinderella story at least manages to keep weepy religiosity to a minimum, and in the Fairyland evocations of Act 3 there is some distinctly high-grade sugar. Elsewhere the music makes a pleasant backdrop to another gorgeous- looking production from the Royal Northern College's established team of Stefan Janski, Richard Marks and Philip Edwards.

Gorgeous sounds, too, from most of the cast. Sarah Fulgoni as Cendrillon is the latest in the long line of RNCM sopranos capable of a fully professional first-night assumption of an extremely demanding role. Kathleen Wilkinson as her stepmother and Louise Walsh as the Fairy Godmother are only a fraction less convincing, and Marianne Joseph and Claire Bradshaw enjoy themselves immensely as the not-so-ugly sisters. Stephen Chaundy is well on the way as Prince Charming, and Craig Smith is more than promising as Cendrillon's father. The chorus (coached by Brian Hughes) and orchestra (under David Lloyd-Jones) reach their usual superlative standard, and students of the Northern Ballet School supply the wittily choreographed dances. I may not be rushing out to buy a recording of Cendrillon, but anyone with the slightest interest in 19th-century French opera should hurry off to Manchester for a delectable experience.

Also 3, 6, 9, 12 Dec (061-273 4504)

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