Last night we saw Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Four Seasons Centre. It’s not my favourite opera by a long shot and reviews had been pretty mixed so expectations weren’t particularly high. Those expectations were, however, exceeded.
Cenerentola is a version of the Cinderella story and was cobbled together in a hurry for its first performance. It has all the emotional depth of a Disney Princess movie but it does have some reasonable comedy and some very singable music. The director, Joan Font, and designer, Joan Guillén, have taken the work at face value, created sets and costumes that look like something out of a children’s colouring book and upped the comedy, most notably by the introduction of six (non-singing) mice who provide a sort of physical commentary on the action while doubling as handy prop movers. The colour palette is very bright and reinforced by the lighting plot.
Critics have criticised this approach as lacking emotional depth and character development but, really, is there any to be found in this piece? I rather doubt it. Within the parameters that have been set the blocking and physical acting is remarkably good. There are a couple of places where characters seem to stranded uncomfortably far upstage for too long leading to some audibility problems but nothing grave. The ugly sisters (Rihab Chaieb and Ileana Montalbetti) camped it up better than I might have expected and veteran comedians like Brett Polegato and Donato di Stefano had a field day.
The singing was fine, sometimes very fine. Lawrence Brownlee as Don Ramiro and Elizabeth DeShong in the title role were quite excellent. Both sang beautifully and accurately as befits bel canto. Larry tossed off high notes with ease and Elizabeth’s coloratura was most assured. All the others were well up to their roles. The all male chorus was as good as ever. Anne Larlee accompanied the recitatives on the fortepiano and was her usual sympathetic self. Leonardo Vordoni in the pit took some sections perhaps more slowly than some others but at least that provided a bit of light and shade. There’s enough “breathless Rossini” in this score to sink a battleship.
So, all in all, an enjoyable production of a work that I think is rather over-rated. I don’t care whether I ever see Cenerentola again but I’m glad I went last night.
Should you go see it? Well tickets for the last three shows go as low as $20 (use discount code “RBA”) but the same is true for Ariadne auf Naxos which is also currently in repertoire and is a much more interesting opera. The Ariadne cast is stellar and Sir Andrew Davies is conducting. Hell, for $20 per show you can see both.
Today it’s off to the cinema to see the Met’s Die Walküre followed by sabotabby’s birthday bash at Vegan Valhalla.