Fun Facts

  • While some modern fairy tales were invented relatively recently, the Cinderella story is very old indeed. The earliest extant written version, recorded by an Ancient Greek geographer named Strabo in the first century B.C.E., is set in Egypt: An enslaved young woman named Rhodopis is bathing by the Nile when an eagle swoops down from the heavens and carries away one of her sandals. Upon reaching the city of Memphis, the eagle drops the sandal into the lap of the Egyptian king, who is so taken by the shapely form of the sandal that he orders his soldiers to search the entire kingdom for the maiden from whose foot it came. Rhodopis is found and brought before the king, and they are married.
  • Due to scheduling and programming conflicts at the Opéra-Comique in Paris almost four years elapsed after Massenet completed the score before Cendrillon was finally performed.

  • Massenet’s contemporary and fellow composer Vincent D’Indy was one of his harshest critics. Massenet’s colleague Jules Barbier commented on the fractious relationship between the two composers when he said, following the premiere of Cendrillon, that Massenet’s new opera would quickly make everyone forget all the “d’Indys et dindons” (“D’Indys and turkeys”) of their age.

  • In an effort to establish definitive scores for his works without the interference from theater managers, Massenet systematically destroyed his own compositional sketches and revisions before the publication of his works. This led to the unfortunate conclusion by some of his early biographers that his method of composition was superficial and lacked the depth of careful consideration.

  • Massenet’s unusual setting of Prince Charmant as a trouser role, together with the soprano role of Cendrillon and the coloratura soprano of the Fairy Godmother, creates a striking timbre when the three voices sing together. In fact, the group’s evocative Act III trio, in which all three female voices sing in harmony, anticipates Richard Strauss’s famous trio from Act III of Der Rosenkavalier—which is known for exactly the same distinctive distribution of voices—by 12 years.