In Massenet’s opera Cinderella the role of Prince Charming was written for a woman. When a male role is sung by a female, it is called a “pants role.” Sometimes, composers will choose for the roles of younger boys to be sung by females because the female voice sounds more like an unchanged boy’s voice than a male voice would.
Also, a female’s frame can be more physically believable as a boy than a grown man would. In the case of Prince Charming, Massenet wrote the role specifically for a female mezzo-soprano. Some other celebrated “pants roles” are Cherubino in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Hansel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Siebel and Stefano in Faust and Romeo and Juliet by Gounod, and the Komponist and Octavian in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and Der Rosenkavalier. Another famous example from American music theater of a female playing the role of a boy is in the Broadway hit Peter Pan, created by Mary Martin, and revived on Broadway by Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby!
Please click here to visit the Cinderella page on our website and go to the “Media & Music” tab. There you will find some wonderful clips from the Royal Opera House where the Prince was performed by mezzo-soprano Alice Coote. You can also click here to view a lively conversation between our own New Orleans Opera Cinderella (Judith Gauthier) and Prince Charming (Marie Lenormonde) talking about performing together in New Orleans.