Opera Reviews
12 August 2020
Untitled Document

Scottish Opera's Cenerentola kicks off the panto season



by Catriona Graham
Rossini: La Cenerentola
Scottish Opera
November 2014

As the nights draw in, the panto season approaches, and Cinderella is about the best-loved story, in the Charles Perrault version. Rossini’s  opera La Cenerentola is also based on the Perrault version, but not as you’d know it. There is no wicked stepmother or fairy godmother, pumpkins, white mice or rats, and it’s a bracelet, not a glass slipper, which identifies Prince Charming’s mysterious love.

Nonetheless, director Sandrine Anglade plays it for panto, although Claude Chestier eschews the primary colours, glitter and obvious cut-outs for a more subtle set design. Six wooden confessional-booths act like Tardises, rotating to change the scene, with silhouettes of the carriage and horses along their tops. Eric Blosse’s lighting makes much use of LEDs in ruffs, bottles and lanterns.

The sisters aren’t ugly either. Rebecca Bottone’s Clorinda fancies herself as a dancer and younger sister Tisbe (Máire Flavin in broderie anglais chemise and shorts) is well into her skin care regime.  Don Magnifico is a doting father to them, however much he rejects Angelina, known, as the programme puts it, as Cenerentola. When his daughters disturb his dream, Graeme Danby is scruffy in dressing-gown, relating a convoluted tale of a donkey growing feathers.  Invited to the palace, he is dapper in a sickeningly sweetie-pink three-piece. His daughters have distinctly donkey laughs …

Nico Darmanin is a robust tenor, investing Don Ramiro (AKA Prince Charming) with a bit more character. Changing places with his valet, Dandini ,gives him greater freedom of movement and allows him to meet and fall in love with Cenerentola/Angelina. He is rightly incensed at Magnifico’s treatment of Angelina, entertained by Dandini’s impersonation, and appalled by the sisters. He has a good foil in Richard Burkhard’s Dandini, who relishes the opportunity to play the master, and hams shamelessly the effect on him of the sisters. There‘s a malicious glee in the way Burkhard at last reveals his true identity to Don Magnifico.

It’s worth mentioning Pascaline Verrier’s choreography – there is a lot of movement in this production, and a lot of very impressive falling down in a dead faint. The sisters, in particular, are working hard with dumb show and exaggerated reactions as to who they think is the prince.

Alidoro, the prince’s tutor, is part pander, part moral centre, part fairy godfather. John Molloy, elegant in tailcoat in the same grey as the Prince, Dandini and the gentlemen of the chorus, moves authoritatively through the production, and sings beautifully.

As Angelina, Victoria Yarovaya’s everyday costume is dowdy, her grey ball-dress architectural, but her voice is rich, liquid and controlled as she flows up and down the scales. Her love-duet with Darmanin is gorgeous. She provides a calm centre, even in her moments of high emotion and distress, of sincerity and goodness.

Conductor William Lacey and the orchestra keep Rossini’s melodies rollicking along, though occasionally the sound overwhelms the singing.

Any lingering doubts of this production’s debts to panto were resolved when, in the curtain calls, Dandini slapped his thigh. Oh, yes he did.

Text © Catriona Graham
Photo © Scottish Opera
Buy CDs/DVDs from amazon.com!