Opera Reviews
16 February 2019
Untitled Document
A sizzling Cenerentola
by Colin Anderson
Rossini: La Cenerentola
The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
17 December 2007

Photo: Johan PerssonThe Royal Opera's third revival of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's production of La Cenerentola (first seen in 2000) is a well-judged staging that has a 1950s' look to it in the domestic setting for Don Magnifico's run-down residence and a timeless grandeur for the superbly maintained palace of Prince Don Ramiro. Thus the familiar story of Cinderella enjoys an operatic outing that also has its elements of pantomime, a comic-opera with pathos: this is in fact a 'Dramma giocoso in two acts'.

Evelino Pidō conducts the overture - to a closed curtain - that sets the orchestral stall out: vivacious, poised and detailed playing that is always lucidly balanced, soufflé-light, sensitively turned and with theatrical impulse. Using Alberto Zedda's accretion-free edition, the emphasis is on clarity; 'heavier' instruments - such as trombones - are used for colour and effect rather than domination.

Occasionally, in the overture and - more noticeably - throughout the opera, although Pidō is exacting, some tempos seem a little too quick - not for the orchestra but certainly for some of the singers who really need rapid-fire techniques to fit in all of Rossini's elaboration; this is achieved, but the effect can be breathless. Singing, acting and interaction are though to a very high order.

Magdalena Kozena makes her Royal Opera debut and is singing Angelina (known as Cenerentola) for the first time. She wins our sympathy as the shabbily dressed, put-upon servant whose wide-eyed wonder is palpable when the Prince - in disguise (naturally!) - falls for her. Indeed it's mutual love at first sight. Vocally Kozena may not quite have the lower tones to fully command the role, but she conveys well a character hard-done-by who could also rise to the top.

Toby Spence - also new to the role - is the Prince who, at first, is suggested as a chauffeur until his true persona is revealed and has the dashing good looks for the part, but he is also just a little restricted in vocal resources although his ringing, ardent and plangent tenor has much to commend it.

Photo: Johan PerssonThe opera begins with the selfish, attention-seeking Clorinda and Tisbe (the Ugly Sisters in pantomime terms) preening themselves while poor old Cenerentola scrubs the floor and dreams of better times. A beggar strolls in. He is treated with contempt by the sisters but is given assistance by Cenerentola. Not a beggar, though, but a shrouded emissary from the Prince; the latter is looking for a childbearing bride. The beggar then returns as his true self as Alidoro - the Prince's tutor. He challenges the feckless Don Magnifico about a third daughter (guess who!) and then the Prince turns up, save it's not him (you remember) but his valet, Dandini. Thus numerous deceits, comedowns and elevations are set up. A swish limousine, electric-blue in colour, transports Cenerentola to the Prince's grand palace (grandiloquently suggested in handsome if minimal terms) and then back again to her drab original surroundings, until she and the real Prince tie the knot.

Splendid sets, which are well-lit, and nice-looking costumes. The cast's teamwork is impressive with individuality and connection finely honed, Pidō leading and supporting in equal measure - his experience in Rossini very evident. If some of his tempos push the pace a little too much for Rossini's musical demands, there's no doubting that such liveliness enhances the story's progress and also gives consciousness its due.

Elena Xanthoudakis and Leah-Marian Jones are the sisters with both capturing well these characters' vacuous natures. Alessandro Corbelli is the fawning and obnoxious Don Magnifico; he can patter with the best of them and is a good 'drunk', too. Stéphane Degout, as the valet-prince-valet, doesn't quite hold the stage and was rather colourless vocally (he did though have a throat problem, notification being made to the audience between the acts). However, it is Lorenzo Regazzo who rather steals the show; his Alidoro is wonderfully manipulative as all his hopes for the Prince are realised; great singing and great acting. (Regazzo misses the last two performances, on January 7 and 9, when Alex Esposito plays Alidoro.)

A thoroughly enjoyable evening - a Christmas treat or something to launch the New Year with a swing.

Photos: © Johan Persson
Text: © Colin Anderson
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