I’ve been writing reviews on and off for 15 years – encompassing restaurant, theatre, cinema and music reviews – but I’ve never reviewed opera or ballet. It’s an intimidating prospect sharing your views on something you don’t feel well versed in, but Arts Scene in Wales is passionate about bringing all of the arts to all, so commissioned this review.
La Cenerentola, Rossini’s take on the tale of Cinderella, was a perfect opera for me to start with. Angelina lives with her step father Don Magnfico and step sisters Clorinda and Tisbe – they call her Cenerentola. She lives a life of drudgery, berated and bullied. The family’s fortunes are on the wane owing to Magnifico and his daughters’ extravagance, and they hope the prince Don Ramiro, who is in want of a wife, will marry one of them.
Posing as a beggar, the prince’s tutor Alidoro approaches the house and is sent away by Clorinda and Tisbe but given shelter and refreshment by Angelina. He tells the prince of this pure-hearted girl and the prince meets her posing as his valet Dandini. There is instant attraction but there are some obstacles to overcome before we get our happy ending.
The lightness of the drama is accompanied by a sparkling and technically challenging score, conducted admirably and with great flair by Tomáš Hanus.
The performance is a delight, with all of the cast impressive singers and good physical actors. There are several notable arias showcasing the cast’s skilful singers, and I particularly enjoyed the wonderful ensemble pieces. The voices complemented each other so beautifully, with no one voice dominating, and supported by soaring strings and punctuating brass.
It is a credit to the cast that for the most part their focus on the acting doesn’t dim even when concentrating on some challenging parts of the score. The only exception to this I felt was when Don Ramiro was angry with Angelina’s family and threatening to beat them, that he lacked conviction, still conveying a benign and amiable presence. However, his part is a musically challenging one and must require intense concentration.
Irish mezzo soprano Tara Erraught was captivating as Angelina, and the sisters – played by Heather Lowe and Aoife Miskelly – presented beautifully spiteful duets.
Fabio Capitanucci as Don Magnifico had a torrent of words to contend with but carried the pace of the story admirably and was certainly a favourite with the audience.
Dandini played by Giorgio Caoduro had a beautiful voice and garnered lots of laughs with his wonderful physicality.
Matteo Macchioni was solid as Don Ramiro and Wojtek Gierlach’s powerful bass lent gravitas to the role of Alidoro.
The production is a visual treat as well as an aural one with something wonderful to look at in each scene. The costumes are a traditional and sophisticated shape but each with a playful, colourful nod to pantomime. I particularly enjoyed the 19 courtiers who not only brought their tenor and bass tones to the layers of sound, but their blue hair, their humour and coordinated movements.
The six stylised mice were not in Rossini’s original but were a wonderful addition, moving across the stage in a captivating way, acting subtlety or obviously as the situation demanded, always complementing and never detracting from the scenes.
The set was fantastic, with simple well thought-out changes managing to convey the several different locations all in one space. Like the costumes, the coach and the feast were colourful but classy and very effective.
This was a joyous and captivating night at the opera.
La Cenerentola has finished its Welsh run and moves on to Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham and Southampton.