Ciro in Babilonia

Ciro in Babilonia is an early work by Rossini composed for the lenten season when only works on biblical/religious themes were permitted.  This doesn’t really fit that description.  Sure, the story of Belshazzar and the writing on the wall gets a brief look in but it’s almost interpolated in the story, from Herodotus, of Cyrus’ capture, together with wife and child, by Belshazzar.  It’s a tale of arrogant kingship, religious faith and marital devotion.  Typical opera seria stuff really.  It’s a bit thin plot-wise though which probably explains its relegation to obscurity.  This first modern production was created at Caramoor, then translated to the Rossini festival at Pesaro, where it was recorded in 2012.

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Cendrillon

Massenet’s Cendrillon is less often performed than Rossini’s take on the same basic story.  I’m really not sure why.  Rossini’s take is a bit weird (in a good way), especially in the Ponelle production, but Massenet’s is much more interesting musically.  Oddly enough there’s only one version on DVD; a 2011 recording from the Royal Opera House.  Fortunately it’s very good.  The production is by Laurent Pelly and it has quite a bit in common with his La Fille du Regiment.  Here the set is made up of pages from the original syory by Perrault rather than military maps but the effect is similar.  Costumes are quite cartoonish (shades of the recent Alice in Wonderland ballet) except for Cendrillon herself, the prince and her father.  There’s a strong emphasis on the humorous side of the piece and the “ballets” are thoroughly subverted.

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