Rossini’s La Cenerentola takes almost three hours to tell a very straightforward version of the Cinderella story. Generally directors, despairing of the this, either camp it up (for example the Els Comediants production seen, inter alia, in Houston and Toronto in recent years) or they try to find a few more layers of meaning as in Ponnelle’s film version. Michael Hampe does neither in his 1988 Salzburg production, preferring to tell the story as a straightforward morality tale. I guess if one really loves the music and it’s really well sung this could work but, ultimately, I found it rather dull.
The production is extremely elegant. Sets and costumes are quite muted, almost monochromatic. There’s a fair bit of clowning around especially from the sisters and Don Magnifico and the all male chorus has a lot of synchronised gesturing to do. There is quite a tendency though to alternate between very busy and “park and bark” and boy is there a lot of that! There’s no real effort to suggest dramatically that Angelina, Alidoro and Don Ramiro are in any real way, besides being less horrid, than the other characters. Don Ramiro frequently gets dragged into the more slap stick bits and Alidoro is not very mysterious; mote conscientious bureaucrat than master puppeteer. The storm scene is rather well staged though and draws massive applause.
The singing is a bit variable. I commented in my review of the ponnelle film that I preferred a brighter sounding tenor to Francisco Ariaza’s rather dark voice. Here he is again, a few years older, sounding even more mature. He can sing the notes but it doesn’t really sound like a Rossini hero. He doesn’t really look the part either having a strong resemblance to a Molesworth drawing of a Revolting Prune. Ann Murray too looks and sounds too old and I just don’t like the top end of her voice which is far too squally for Rossini Walter Berry as Don Magnifico shows his age and barks quite a ot of his lines. The best singing comes from Gino Quilico’s Dandini who has a genuine flexible, light baritone. Perfectly sound work too from Wolgang Schöne, Angela Denning and Daphne Evangelatos as Alidoro and the sisters. The chorus is excellent. I’m not sure what I think of Riccardo Chailly’s conducting or the playing of the Wiener Philharmoniker. It sounds a bit leaden but I think this may be an acoustics or recording problem (see below).
Claus Viller’s video direction is fine. He gives a pretty judicious mix of long shots and closeups. The saminess of the long shots isnt his fault. That’s how this production is designed and directed. The picture is TV quality 4:3. The sound choices are Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0, The 5.1 track is quite rich and spacious but either the recording engineer is boosting the bass, the acoustic in the Kleines Festspielhaus is a bit boomy or the playing is a bit leaden for this is really rather bass heavy which is far from ideal for Rossini. The disk package is very basic with no bonus material and just a chapter listing. The only subtitle option is English.
I was rather disappointed with this recording but others have seen it in a more favourable light. In the interests of fairness I’m linking to Pamina’s much more positive review.