Portrait of Pauline Viardot-García by Albert H. Payne (1902)
In this 4-part feature, PerformInk continues its INSIDE series and takes you behind the scenes of The Hypocrites production of CINDERELLA AT THE THEATRE OF POTATOES through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes.
By Sean Graney
I’ve collaborated with Andra Velis Simon for the past six years on exploring Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Last year, when we were discussing possible future projects, we knew we wanted to stray from the traditional duo. We wondered if there were any operas written by a woman. When we came across Pauline Viardot-García’s Cendrillon we knew we found the right project.
When we explored more information about Viardot-García, we discovered a deep love for the composer and her interesting life. More people should know the name Pauline Viardot-García, the composer and librettist of the opera Cendrillon and hundreds of other compositions. She was a prominent musician and pedagogue of the late nineteenth century. Viardot-García’s singing earned her renown across Europe while her collaborations with composers like Chopin, Berlioz, and Saint-Saëns earned her a place among the period’s musical elite. Franz Liszt declared her a composer of genius. However, she is rarely mentioned amongst the pantheon of her peers.
Cendrillon is the source material for Andra’s CINDERELLA AT THE THEATRE OF POTATOES, which also draws on the life of Viardot-García herself. CINDERELLA AT THE THEATRE OF POTATOES invites the audience into Pauline’s salon, Le Théâtre des Pommes de Terre, the admission for which was one potato. It is an elegant exploration of the classic fairy tale, bringing it into the 21st Century by presenting the titular character as an independent person rather than a helpless young woman in need of acceptance by a prince. It is the story of an orphan girl, stuck in servitude, denied the ability to sing. She overcomes her circumstances with her incredible talent showing anyone can achieve greatness.
In the first two weeks, we have been working on music. The incredible cast of seven not only have to learn a lot of operatic songs, performed with a more folk/pop feel, but they also act as their own orchestra, playing instruments from dulcimer to piano. I am having a great time, being inspired by these incredible, virtuosic people. I love seeing the show take shape; I am very eager to see what it will look like by the time we get in front of an audience. I hope people enjoy and will be surprised by our re-telling of this classic story. I hope to see you all at the theater, please come over and say hello.