THE LAST TIME Cinderella visited the Kennedy Center Opera House, in 1983, some people in the audience had trouble recognizing the story. That was Rossini's "Cenerentola," a superb opera but a bit rationalistic for a fairy tale. It has the mistreated heroine and two ugly, mean stepsisters but no stepmother, no fairy godmother, no pumpkin or mice, and emphatically no magic wand.
This weekend, the Washington Opera has another, more recognizable Cinderella. It is Massenet's "Cendrillon," which revels in magic, dream sequences, lots of ballet and special effects. As it did in 1979, the Washington Opera's production stars Frederica von Stade, who also sings the title role in the first and only recording. She is, in person and on records, a superb interpreter, and CBS Masterworks assembled a first-class cast for the recording, including Nicolai Gedda as Prince Charmant and Ruth Welting in the hilarious role of the stepmother.
On LP, the recording is part of an endangered species; it deserves transfer to the more permanent and technically satisfying CD medium. A production with the same scenery, costumes and lead soprano was broadcast on Canadian television some years ago and has been circulated on a bootleg videotape. Like many other televised opera performances, it deserves to be processed and marketed in a professional video format.
CENDRILLON -- On record: three LPs with libretto (CBS M3 35194). On stage: the Washington Opera performs "Cendrillon" in the Kennedy Center Opera House Saturday, Tuesday and March 4, 7, 10 and 13.