Seattle Opera - Study Guide: Cinderella in Spain

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Cinderella en España (Cinderella in Spain)

Libretto by Kate Pogue, Music by Mary Carol Warwick

Synopsis

By Kate Pogue

Once upon a now, on the streets of Barcelona, the sun rises as it does every day. As like every other day, a young woman leaves for work and a young man arrives home from a night on the town. Every day, this young woman perseveres and bounces back from an unkind world to greet a new sunrise. Every night, while this young woman mourns the loss of her mother and father, this young man squanders his money and time seeking new parties, new diversions. While our young man has a family he shuns, our young woman has a family who shuns her.

Both of their lives are about to change.

On this day, El Rey, the King and the father of our young man Paulo, has had enough of his son’s lack of discipline and immaturity. El Rey hatches a plan to teach his son responsibility: the King decrees that a fiesta will be held in honor of his son. At this fiesta, his son will find a wife – and then he’ll find a job.

Cinderella works very hard in her job at the café amidst the harassment and bullying of her stepmother and stepsisters. For Cinderella’s madrastra (stepmother) and stepsisters, Isabella and Margarita, status and possessions have replaced things of true value. They don’t see this invitation as an opportunity for finding love, but rather as an opportunity to climb the social ladder. They laugh at Cinderella’s idea of joining the King’s fiesta as they leave Cinderella in tears to clean up the mess they made.

Cinderella’s strong work ethic catches the eye of one customer. A fabulous godmother sees Cinderella’s heartbreak. With acts of kindness and generosity, la madrina hands off her shopping bags so that Cinderella to attend the fiesta for a fun and carefree evening. Just be home by midnight, la madrina insists.

Among all the music and dancing, everyone seems to want something out of the evening: Cinderella wants a respite from the grind of daily life; Isabella and Margarita are looking for attention from the paparazzi; and Paulo wants revenge for being forced into this situation.

Amidst the judgement and desperation on the dance floor, Paulo stumbles across kindness, compassion, and honor. Gazing into Cinderella’s eyes he sees, for the first time, true beauty – the kind that exudes from the heart. When this independent, resilient young woman disappears into the crowd, all he has to identify her is an abandoned shoe.

The next morning, the stepsisters lament their failed attempts at landing a title while Cinderella dutifully serves customers. Paulo and his detectives arrive with a bejeweled platform pump, and Isabella and Margarita practically cause themselves bodily injury to force their feet into the shoe in order to score the palace ZIP code.

Dejected and turning to leave, Paulo sees a glimpse of Cinderella behind a full tray of espressos. Dressed in her uniform and apron, the Prince recognizes the hard-working, spirited woman he danced with last evening. With a humility virtually unrecognizable by his detectives, Paulo approaches the waitress to ask if she will try on the shoe. Madrastra and the stepsisters cannot believe that Cinderella is the “princess” from last night’s party. Paulo now understands that beauty and inherent worth is measured by a person’s character and the kindness and compassion shown toward others.

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The Vision: Interview with stage director Kelly Kitchens

Seattle Opera: Kelly, you’re the stage director ofCinderella en España.  What is the role of a stage director?

Kelly Kitchens: First and foremost, a stage director must have a strong passion for storytelling and connection to the story being told. The stage director is responsible for the creative interpretation of that story and overseeing the practical implementation of that vision. The stage director works closely with the creative team, production team, organization’s staff, and producers in all stages of this process. In bringing a story to life, directors communicate, collaborate, and coordinate across a wide range of disciplines. It is a lot of work—but it is work that is incredibly rewarding, inspiriting, and energizing.

SO: What's the most crucial element of any production?

KK: Collaboration around a great script or libretto and score.  Whether making theater or attending theater, there is nothing like an ensemble passionately, skillfully, creatively telling a story together that they believe needs to be told. In that moment, magic happens. That kind of storytelling opens minds and hearts; worlds expand.

SO: Most of us are familiar with the Cinderella story, especially the Disney version. What is different about this retelling?

KK: I think people are most familiar with the Disney version of this ancient tale; but that is a very late addition to this ancient story.  As Mary Northup says, “Cinderella, despite her popularity, has developed a reputation as a simpering, whimpering girl who is helpless until the right magic comes along. But this is the Cinderella of the later twentieth century. The earlier Cinderella, in many of her original forms, was not a wishing-only kind of person. She was self-reliant, devoted to family and ancestors, and willing to make her own future.”

SO: So how many versions of Cinderella are out there?

KK: Almost every culture seems have its own version of the Cinderella tale. The origins appear to date back to a Chinese story from the ninth century, “Yeh-Shen.” Countless later versions have been found and continue to be created.  In the Algonquin version, she is the “Rough-Faced Girl” whose face and hands had been burned by tending the fire; China’s Yeh-Shen receives gifts from the bones of a fish; a male Cinderella appears in the 1905 Irish version; the prince, in an English version, falls in love with Tattercoats whilst she is still in her rags; and in an African version inspired by a Zimbabwe folktale, Nayasha befriends a little snake Nyoka who, in a surprise ending, turns out to be the Great King in disguise.

SO: Sounds like those are pretty different from the Disney Cinderella story we’re most familiar with!

KK: What all of these versions share is a young heroine who acts with compassion in often terrible circumstances; one who understands that status may shift but character and inner worth remain a constant. This is not a story about getting a pretty dress and marrying a prince. This is a story about the beauty of kindness and the ugliness in mistreatment of others. It is a story full of jealousy, wisdom, greed, and love. It reminds us that though it is not wrong to appreciate beautiful things, it is a mistake to think things or outward appearance makes you beautiful.

SO: What would you like to audience to take away or learn from this opera?

KK: The media and popular culture perpetuate and bombard women and girls with a beauty myth that is not only impossible to achieve, but also damaging to developing self-esteem and positive body image.  These messages start young with girls and are very different than messages to boys. The recent covers of Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life magazines clearly show how the messaging towards boys and girls differs.  The cover of the September 2016 Girls’ Life featured a thin, blonde model in full make-up surrounded by the text “Your Dream Hair,” “Wake up pretty!”, and “Fall Fashion You’ll Love”. The cover of the same month’s Boys’ Life magazine didn’t feature a model; instead, the center of the cover read “Explore Your Future” in black bold print, underneath read, “Astronaut? Artist? Firefighter? Chef? Here’s how to be what you want to be,” surrounded by pictures of a microscope, a computer, chemistry beakers, and a satellite. In telling this story of Cinderella, I want to focus not on the “beauty first message” that, as Tracy Mumford says, “follows every modern girl everywhere she goes, from the movie theater to the grocery store” but on the story of inner beauty; on the strength and resilience of a young hard-working girl who faces ugliness with kindness and perseverance. I want to inspire the audience to question their perception of beauty as a physical, fashionable attribute and redefine it as a character trait that expresses itself in acts of generosity, patience, and gratitude.

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The Setting

Our production of Cinderella en España is set in the coastal city of Barcelona, Spain. Situated in the Northeast corner of Spain, just south of France, Barcelona is a center for culture and architecture. One of the most famous buildings in Barcelona is the Sagrada Família, a Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudí that has been under construction since 1882. When completed, it will include 18 towers and reach a height of 566 feet. Click on the picture below to find out more.

Barcelona has a population of 1.6 million and it is the most visited city in Spain (and the third most visited in Europe!). Vibrant colors, ornate architecture, art, food, and culture abound in this cosmopolitan city. There are two legends about the founding of Barcelona: one version claims the city was founded by Hercules, 400 years before the building of Rome, while the other version says it was founded by the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca in the third century BC.

 

Sagrada Família Barcelona

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The Costumes

Cinderella Costume Design by Melanie Burgess.

Cinderella Costume Design by Melanie Taylor Burgess.

Isabella Costume Design by Melanie Burgess.

Isabella, Guillermo, and King Costume Designs by Melanie Taylor Burgess.

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Cast & Creative Team

Cinderella

Jessica Milanese

Jessica Milanese
Jessica Robins Milanese, Soprano, is critically acclaimed for the depth and sparkle she brings to her performances on the concert and opera stage. With the Northwest Sinfonietta, The News Tribune stated “Jessica Robins Milanese performance of the well-known Exsultate, Jubilate by Mozart was all that could be wished for. Milanese’s voice rang like liquid gold, and she produced some goose-bump coloratura.”

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Ms. Milanese has performed with many of the region’s leading arts organizations, such as Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Northwest Sinfonietta, Tacoma Opera, Tacoma Symphony and Orchestra Seattle.

On the opera stage, Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro), is one of Ms. Milanese’s favorite and most frequently performed characters. She has performed the role with Tacoma Opera, Washington East Opera, Skagit Opera and Opera Pacific. Other memorable roles include Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Héro (Béatrice et Bénédict), Blonde (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Ms. Wordsworth (Albert Herring), Norina (Don Pasquale), Marie (Daughter of the Regiment), Pamina (The Magic Flute), Zerlina (Don Giovanni) and Gretel (Hansel and Gretel).

Some of this year’s engagements include Sister Constance (Dialogues des Carmelites) at Vashon Opera, a recording and performance with the Seattle Symphony’s Lullaby Project, the Fairy Queen (St. George and The Dragon) at Studio East, and Cinderella (Cinderella en España) with Seattle Opera.

Ms. Milanese has been a music faculty member at Pacific Lutheran University for the past seven years.

Serena Eduljiee

Serena Eduljee
Serena Eduljee, Soprano, has a full schedule this season—including performances as Gretel (Hansel und Gretel) for the Seattle Opera previews, Frasquita (Carmen) with Pacific Northwest Opera, and Cinderella in Seattle Opera's touring production of Cinderella en España.

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As a recipient of the Seattle Opera Guild/OperaPlus Artist Scholarship for this season, she recently performed as Alitsa and Raccoon in for Seattle Opera’s commissioned trilogy Our Earth, as well as in recital, gala, and chorus performances for Seattle Opera. Entertainment News Northwest calls Serena “magnetic,” claiming “Eduljee has one of those luminous stage presences that make me want to see much more of her in the future.”

Among the roles in her repertoire, Ms. Eduljee has performed as the title role in Semele, Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Marie (La Fille du Régiment), Alkandre (Faure's Penelope), and Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), as well as covering the roles of Gilda (Rigoletto) and Adele (Die Fledermaus). In previous seasons, Ms. Eduljee appeared with Skagit Opera, OperaBend and the Central Oregon Symphony, Opera Mariposa, Portland Summer Opera Workshop, and Ensign Symphony, for whom she was the soloist for the US premiere of Tommasso Traetta’s lost motet, In nocte plena, performed at Benaroya Hall, Seattle.

Ms. Eduljee was a participant in the OperaWorks Advanced Artist Program in 2013 and holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. She currently resides in Seattle.

Stepmother/Madrastra & Fairy Godmother/Madrina

Lucy Weber

Lucy Weber
Lucy Weber, Mezzo-Soprano, has performed throughout the region with Seattle Opera's education outreach tour – most recently as Raven/Eagle in Seattle Opera’s commissioned trilogy Our Earth. Lucy has performed with Sun Valley Opera, Northwest Opera in Schools, Lyric Opera Northwest, Tacoma Opera, and the Ohio Light Opera. Ms. Weber has also been a featured performer with Seattle Opera in its production of Suor Angelica. Lucy has performed with Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Company in Donald Byrd’s acclaimed production of Carmina Burana and made her acting debut with Seattle Shakespeare Company in its fall 2016 production of Medea.

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Among her repertoire, Ms. Weber has performed and covered Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Hansel (Hansel and Gretel), Siebel (Faust), Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro), Anna (The Seven Deadly Sins), Dido (Dido and Aeneas), Papagena (the Magic Flute), and Angelina (La Cenerentola).

Chyse McLeod Lewis

Chyse McLeod Lewis
Cheryse McLeod Lewis, Mezzo-Soprano (AEA, AGMA), is an accomplished performer in opera, Broadway, concert, and recital. Ms. Lewis performed on the 1st National Broadway Tour of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess as U/S Bess & Swing and appeared in the title role numerous times to critical acclaim.

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Commended for her “stunning vocal power” (Asheville Citizen Times) and “rich lyric mezzo sound” (Opera News Online), some of Ms. Lewis’s other leading roles include the title role in Carmen (Capital Opera Raleigh; Asheville Lyric Opera); Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Asheville Lyric Opera, Mansfield Symphony, Central Georgia Opera Guild); Hansel in Hansel and Gretel (Connecticut Opera; Greensboro Opera); the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors (Opera Carolina; Connecticut Opera); and Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus (Vashon Opera; Greensboro Opera).

Ms. Lewis also appears in concert and recital to rave reviews and has performed as a soloist with Orchestra Seattle, Boise Philharmonic, Gettysburg Festival, Eastern Music Festival, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Greensboro Symphony, New Britain Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, MOJA Festival, and Greensboro Oratorio Society.

Upcoming engagements for the 2016-2017 season include solo concert appearances with the Olympia Symphony, Eugene Concert Choir, Kirkland Choral Society, Freedom Hall (Park Forest, IL) and Resonance Hall at SOMA Towers (Bellevue, WA). A proud native of Greensboro, NC, Ms. Lewis is currently based in Kirkland, WA. When she is not singing, Ms. Lewis is a professional actor, model, and voiceover artist. Ms. Lewis released her debut solo CD, Spirituals, in 2012. Learn more at CheryseMusic.com.

King/El Rey, Stepsister/Isabella, Parrot/Papageno

Tim Janecke

Tim Janecke
Tenor Timothy Janecke is starting his 2nd production with the Seattle Opera’s school tour after playing Parr/Owl/Orca is last year’s student production of Our Earth. He played Macheath in Tacoma Opera’s production of Threepenny Opera in the spring and is a regular chorister with Seattle Opera. Recent projects include Riccardo Percy in Anna Bolena, Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette, Tinca/Gherardo in Il Tabarro/Gianni Schicchi, and Benedict in Beatrice et Benedict. In addition to his regular opera chorus and student outreach performances, Tim will be singing the role of Lensky in Tacoma Opera’s production of Eugene Onegin in the spring and serves as tenor section leader at Bellevue Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Washington. Tim has extensive experience in student outreach programs as he has performed with NOISE and Chicago Symphony Chorus programs in the past.

 

Melissa Plagemann

Melissa Plagemann
Melissa Plagemann, Mezzo-Soprano, has been praised by audiences and the press for her “clear, burnished voice” (Tacoma News Tribune) and “attractively expressive mezzo” (Crosscut Seattle). She performs frequently with the finest musical organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest, and is rapidly becoming known for the passion and musical intelligence she brings to performances on opera and concert stages alike.

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Ms. Plagemann has recently appeared in concert and recital at the Banff Summer Arts Festival, the Icicle Creek International Chamber Music Festival, the American Harp Society National Conference, the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the Second City Chamber Series, the Tacoma Symphony, and the Everett Philharmonic, among others. As a winner of the Ladies’ Musical Club competition, she was featured in recital throughout Washington State. Recent operatic performances include Suor Angelica (Novice 1) and Turandot (Handmaiden) with Seattle Opera, Le Comte Ory (Isolier) with Tacoma Opera, Madama Butterfly (Suzuki) with Vashon Opera, and La traviata (Flora) with Skagit Opera, as well as productions of Hansel and Gretel (Hansel), Die Zauberflöte (Second Lady), Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Nicklausse/LaMuse), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rosina), and Don Giovanni (Donna Elvira).

Ms. Plagemann lives in Shoreline, WA with her husband and daughter, and teaches on the voice faculties of Pacific Lutheran University and Western Washington University.

Town Crier/Guillermo, Stepsister/Margarita, Swallow/Golondrina

Ben Cleveland

Ben Cleveland
Ben Cleveland, Tenor, is a new addition to the Seattle area. He has held apprentice artist positions at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Opera New Jersey. Recent performance credits include Don José in Carmen, Rodolfo in La bohème, and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte.

 

Jon Farmer

Jon Farmer
Jon Farmer, Tenor, is a Seattle-based performer that can be seen in a variety of operatic roles around Puget Sound and beyond. As an experienced musician, Mr. Farmer not only sings on the operatic stage, but is also right at home performing in genres including musical theatre, rock, funk, jazz, gospel, and country. As an instrumentalist, Mr. Farmer performs in a variety of studio projects, playing bass guitar, organ, and piano.

 

Revere Taylor

Revere Taylor
Revere Taylor, Baritone, hails from Santa Fe, New Mexico. He attended the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland before graduating with a Bachelor of Music from New Mexico State University. He earned his Master of Music degree from University of Northern Colorado, where he performed the roles of Germont (La traviata), Rambaldo (La rondine), and Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus).

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He performed Ping in Turandot with Opera Fort Collins, and sang Melitone in La forza del destino as a featured soloist with Opera Classica Europa in Germany. Mr. Taylor has been an Associate Chorister with Seattle Opera since 2015.

Michael Heitmann

Michael Heitmann
Michael Heitmann, Baritone, has recently performed as Coyote/Frog/Tayil in Seattle Opera's production of Our Earth, Rambaldo Fernandez in La rondine with Puget Sound Concert Opera, Ben in The Telephone, Hortensius in The Daughter of the Regiment with Northwest Opera in the Schools, and Bello in La fanciulla del West with Opera Coeur d’Alene. Mr. Heitmann created the role of Charles Saint-Evremond in the world premiere of Jay Hamilton's The Map. This spring, Mr. Heitmann makes his Tacoma Opera debut as Don Pedro in La Perichole.

 

Stage Director

Kelly Kitchens

Kelly Kitchens
Kelly Kitchens is a professional director, actor, adaptor, and teaching artist. She received the 2014 Gregory Falls Award for Outstanding Director; named Best Director by the 2015 Seattle Weekly Readers Poll; and was named in Seattle Magazine’s inaugural list of “Top 20 Most Talented People in Seattle”. She is the Interim Artistic Director at Seattle Public Theater, a member of the Sandbox Artists Collective, and a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Locally she has worked with Seattle Opera, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Book-It Repertory Theater, Seattle Public Theater, Seattle Repertory Theatre, MAP Theater, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Wooden O Theatre, Strawberry Theater Workshop, upstart crow collective, Endangered Species Project, Taproot Theatre, Annex Theatre, The Seagull Project/Great Soul of Russia, NCTC Pipeline, Sandbox Radio, 14/48, Northwest Playwrights Alliance, Cornish College of the Arts, Pierce College, and The University of Washington. Kelly earned her B.A. in Theater and English from Vanderbilt University and her M.F.A. in Acting from the University of Texas at Austin.

Costume Designer

Melanie Taylor Burgess

Melanie Taylor Burgess
Melanie Taylor Burgess is a proud Seattle Costume Designer. The largest portion of her work is generated here in the Seattle area, but occasionally she is taken elsewhere: The Guthrie, Cincinnati Playhouse, Idaho theatre for Youth, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Hawaii Opera and Ohio’s Tantrum Theatre. She has designed over 160 productions for Seattle Rep, 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT. Intiman Theatre, The Village Theatre, Seattle Opera, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company, NCTC, Seattle Theatre Company, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, ArtsWest, Taproot Theatre and sadly, a few theatres that don’t exist anymore. The recipient of the Gregory Award for Outstanding Costume Design 2010, Ms. Taylor Burgess is also honored to be on the faculty for Cornish College of The Arts.

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Cinderella Around the World

When most of us think of Cinderella, we think of the Disney movie full of princesses, princes, magical rats, pumpkins and fairy godmothers. However, Cinderella is actually an ancient story, dating back thousands of years, which has since spread to all corners of the globe. Some versions incorporate a magical godmother, while others a magical fish, but they all follow a heroine (sometimes a hero) who finds a better life in the face of adversity. The Disney version is an adaption of Charles Perrault’s telling of the story, first published in 1697’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé (Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals or Mother Goose Tales). Take a look at the map below and discover some of the most common Cinderella stories found in our libraries. What’s your favorite version?


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