Wednesday, 23 January 2019
La Cenerentola | New Theatre Oxford | Thursday, October 11
THE Welsh National Opera has a very high reputation for the excellence of its productions.
The director Jane Font’s treatment of Rossini’s opera La Cenerentola, assia La bontà in trionfo (Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant) is no exception.
La Cenerentola was first performed in 1817. Rossini composed it in only three weeks to a libretto supplied at equally short notice by Jacopo Ferretti.
It is an inspired masterpiece containing some of Rossini’s finest and most technically demanding writing for solo voice and ensemble.
The international soloists fielded by WNO were well equipped to meet this exceptional challenge and, remarkably, sounded and looked as fresh after almost three hours of demanding musical gymnastics as they had done at the outset.
The cast was supported by a well-drilled and magnificently attired male chorus together with WNO’s own excellent orchestra that didn’t miss a note under the lively baton of Tomàš Hanus.
The stage setting was ingenious and flexible. It is amazing what you can do with revolving mirrors and a bit of smoke! No expense was spared on the costumes. The use of very bright colours served well to emphasise the fairy tale context of the story.
Ferretti’s plot of the opera is broadly based on the old fairy tale of Cinderella:
Angelina, the step daughter of Don Magnifico, lives at the Don’s crumbling castle in the kitchen working as a slave to her two vain and cruel half-sisters Clorinda and Tisbe. In Ferretti’s version the traditional fairy godmother is replaced by Prince Ramiro’s tutor, Alidoro, disguised as a beggar. Angelina takes pity on the beggar who arranges for her to go to the prince’s ball in disguise. Cinderella’s famous glass slipper is replaced by a diamond bracelet; and there is no need for a shoe-fitting contest because the prince’s scheming valet, Dandini, has already pre-selected Angelina to be the bride!
The WNO version dumps the fairy tale mice that traditionally turn magically into white horses to take Cinderella to the ball. Instead, Cinderella has six pet rats that get up to all sorts of engaging antics as the plot develops. Typically, at one point, the prince’s coach breaks down outside Don Magnifico’s castle, whereupon the rats trundle a toy coach-and-four onto the stage, remove a wheel, carefully lay the coach on its side, give a “thumbs-up” and scuttle off. The audience loved it.
This was just one of many delightful, surreal touches to the evening’s entertainment. The audience took the rats to their hearts; the six dancers involved, in delightfully baggy costumes with conical noses and long tails, were given a roar of applause by the audience at the final curtain.
Underpinning all the laughter and intrigue, Rossini’s timeless and dazzling score was given sparkling treatment to bring the whole story to life. This was opera at its best and most accessible.
20 October 2018
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