This semi-staged performance of Rossini’s La Cenerentola was rich in not only vocal talent and musicianship but had clearly also given the behind-the-scenes students the opportunity to showcase their work. This is was evident in the costumes and stage props which gave the production a visual theme to match the stylistic approach from director Martin Constantine.
The conceit of the retelling of the fairy tale telling was to have an imagined tale within a tale. So La Cenerentola is indeed the neglected put upon servant in a house with an ambitious father and two feckless daughters but everything from there on in (the ball, the handsome prince, the rags to riches) is in her imagination. The opera ends where it starts, with La Cenerentola under heel.
Lucy Mellor and Aimee Daniel
All of the principles in this ambitious show wear costumes with pages of a book sized patches and there are towering piles of sheet of paper around which the action takes place and she these also hang from the ceiling and she scrunches up discarded ones and stuffs in to a bin bag. The shades of the standard lamps are similarly made from pages of books. The tutor / fairy godmother Alidoro shows our sort of heroine the book containing the story which she sings a few lines from as a type of character leitmotif. It is, however, all just a story.
The singers are generally studying on MA in Opera Performance at the College and there were several casts for the demanding work.
The story is updated to nowish with the sisters obsessed with taking selfies, preening themselves in front of mirrors, with the chorus being sort of secret agents (sunglasses and the ubiquitous hand to ear gestures etc but wearing track suits with letters on them, again reinforcing the theme of the story telling and book. For their identity swapping the prince Ramiro and his servant Dandini exchange a smart suit for casual leisure clothes including baseball cap (of course).
The characterisation had varying success and this is more a comment on the direction and the opera itself rather than dramatic ability of the cast members, so while, Aaron Holmes sang a secure Alidoro there was not a great deal he could do dramatically with the role. In contrast, André Henriques not only sounded the part but was also a comic delight right down to his golden underwear, taking every opportunity to dig out the humour of the role. This was also true of the two sisters who could play up the ridiculousness of their characters and Lucy Mellor and Aimee Daniel certainly did that. Fortunately they also gave impressive singing performance to match the almost slapstick comedic work.
Ramiro, Rhodri Jones, has the joy of Rossini’s elegant arias and this delightful tenor delivered them with charm and was very much the straight guy for Henriques’ punchy comedy. Christine Byrne sang and acted La Cenerentola with a feistiness rather than simpering victim, more of a Rosina, in that other rather too similar Rossini opera, than a panto Cinders and she certainly delivered on the Rossinian coloratura.
As the pathetic father Magnifico, Blaise Malaba showed he is a singer of power and potential with a smooth, flowing line, giving a rounded portrayal of this role as both a funny but also dark and disturbing, violent character.
In all of this the singers were dependent on the work from the student musicians who appeared behind them and under the baton of David Jones, the exuberance of Rossini’s score came flashing into life.
Watch out for the College’s The Magic Flute in July.