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Seen and Heard Opera Review

 

Rossini, La Cenerentola: Glyndebourne Festival Opera, 13th July 2005, (HT-W)

 

When the Glyndebourne Festival Opera turns all its resources to its full advantage, vintage Glyndebourne is usually the outcome. This was certainly the case with the first of two new productions this season. For a short while I had second thoughts, if this was indeed the right way to tackle Rossini. But, in dubio pro reo.

 

It is unbelievable that this happened to be Peter Hall’s first ever Rossini production. Certainly, there is no one better equipped than this ingenious man of the theatre to direct Rossini like a play; he has an eye for the tiniest detail and a vision of the whole story, all developed entirely out of the music. This evening turned out to be the most total Rossini I had ever experienced. In the programme book Peter Hall said to the critic John Allison: “I believe that Rossini’s operas are funny only if they’re done very seriously… Rossini’s operas have political undertones. It’s not as strange as it sounds to call Cenerentola a socially very progressive opera. He took a fairy story and turned it on its head to make a social document, but not a document that’s grim and serious – it’s full of joy… It’s about reason and rationality, about human balance, much more than about any kind of coincidental miracle… If you start from the text alone you’re into something quite shallow, but with the music you’re into something violently emotional… La Cenerentola´s a social comedy. It’s about a girl seeing her chance and taking it. And a young prince growing up so that he is capable of marriage.”

 

 

The action is firmly set in the period between Enlightenment and Biedermeier. The fascinating Design (Hildegard Bechtler) allowed for constant change from Don Magnifico’s home to the wine cellar as well as the saloon in Don Ramiro’s palace. Moritz Junge’s costumes and the delicate lighting by Peter Mumford are equally part of Peter Hall’s concept, which left nothing to chance. The seven soloists acted in the most natural and unforced way and had generally no problems with the extreme, but breathtaking, tempi the Italian maestro Roberto Polastri had in mind. The overture thrilled the hearts; the London Philharmonic in the pit was on top form.

 

The American soprano Raquela Sheeran (Clorinda) and the Italian soprano Lucia Cirillo (Tisbe), Don Magnifico’s two daughters, had not only excellent Rossini voices, but also sparkled with temperament. The Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg possessed the necessary weight for the wire-puller Alidoro, Ramiro’s tutor, and the Italian bass Luciano Di Pasquale as Clorinda’s and Tisbe’s father Don Magnifico had the laugh on his side, a great voice and an actor of unparalleled wit. As the Prince Don Ramiro Gyndebourne secured one of the very few high-pitched Rossini tenors, the Russian Rossini specialist Maxim Mironov, while the Italian bass-baritone Simone Alberghini as Ramiro’s valet Dandini, an outstanding belcantist, was irresistible as the disguised Prince Ramiro.

 

One of the most brilliantly directed scenes had been the beginning of the second act, when Dandini reveals to Don Magnifico that he is in fact not the Prince, but only his valet. Next to its consistency the highlight of the entire evening had been the Rumanian mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose. I remember her vividly as Sesto in Glyndebourne’s production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito in 1999. By now, she has sung all the great mezzo parts and has developed a voice of extraordinary beauty, which in higher registers sounds like a lark, light and velvety. She acted with charm and grace and proved Peter Hall’s point that La Cenerentola is neither one of the most extravagant voice circuses nor a quite silly opera, but a work in which a constantly humiliated woman sees her chance and liberates herself from the past.

 

 

Hans-Theodor Wohlfahrt


 

 



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