it is the most beloved fairy tale of all time: A young woman of unmatched grace and goodness overcomes the abuse of her stepfamily, profits from the help of a fairy godmother, and wins the heart of a royal suitor to live happily ever after. For almost 2,000 years, versions of the Cinderella story have been told across the globe, inspiring interpretations by myriad authors, playwrights, musicians, and filmmakers. There is much to recognize in Jules Massenet’s fin-de-siècle version of this story, including a carriage formed from a pumpkin, a midnight curfew, and a singular glass slipper. Yet Massenet’s title character is rendered at once stronger and more human than her literary forebear, as Massenet and librettist Henri Caïn augment the opera’s comedy, romance, and wistfulness with Cendrillon’s remarkable ability to forgive.

The Met’s production, by director Laurent Pelly, quite literally brings the storybook tale to life. Inspired by an edition of Perrault’s Cendrillon illustrated by Gustave Doré that Pelly read as a child, the production is steeped in the physical, typographical materials of the fairy tale. The set evokes the pages of a book, with black and white text forming its walls, and the shapes of characters and props appearing as large cut-out letters. With its blend of humor and darkness mirroring the tensions of the fairy tale genre itself, the production constructs a haunting, magical landscape brought to life by over-the-top characters and impeccable design.

This guide is intended to help your students appreciate Cendrillon as well as introduce them to different versions of the Cinderella story from diverse cultural and historical contexts. By analyzing key differences between the various retellings, students will explore stylistic and structural elements of the narrative, think deeply about what exactly makes the fairy tale so compelling, and consider what their own version of this classic story might be. The materials on the following pages include an introduction to the Cinderella story across the ages, an overview of Massenet’s life and work, and classroom activities that will bring the opera’s music and story to life. By delving into Cendrillon’s music, drama, and design, this guide will forge interdisciplinary classroom connections, inspire critical thinking, and help students enjoy the magic of Massenet’s charming work.

Included in the 2017-18 and 2021-22 seasons of HD Live in Schools.