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Rossini, La Cenerentola: at the Estonian National Opera, Tallinn 27.9.2007 (GF)

Stage Director and Set Designer: Michiel Dijkema
Costume Designer: Claudia Damm

Lighting Designers: Michiel Dijkema, Bas Berensen


Angelina (Cenerentola) - Annaliisa Pillak
Don Ramiro – Kestutis Alčauskis
Dandini – René Soom

Don Magnifico – Rauno Elp

Clorinda – Kristina Vähi

Tisbe – Juuli Lill

Alidoro – Priit Volmer
Estonian National Opera Chorus and Symphony Orchestra/Arvo Volmer



The Estonian National Opera House is a Jugend style building from the early 20th century, situated in a beautiful park close to the Old Town in Tallinn. It is in fact a double building, where the other half houses a concert hall. I have seen several of the company’s productions at Dalhalla the last few years but this was my first visit to their home theatre.

Rossini’s La Cenerentola, based on Charles Perrault’s fairy-tale and premiered in January 1817, is one of the most agreeable operas of the bel canto period, not as filled with immediately catchy arias as Il barbiere di Siviglia, written the year before but in a spirited performance it can be just as entertaining as its predecessor. There are also some really top notch numbers with Angelina’s concluding big aria Nacqui all’affanno as the apex. Arguably it is also more sophisticated than Barbiere and the scoring, not least of the overture, is delicious. Chief Conductor Arvo Volmer made the most of the exquisite woodwind writing in a chamber music like reading.

This production was first seen on 10 November 2006 and Dutch director and set designer has found a winning concept, once or twice verging on slapstick but never crossing the borders for good taste and he manages to create believable personalities of what is in the main stock buffo characters. The direction is very detailed and it seems that there is not a movement, a gesture or an expression that isn’t considered and worked out.

The whole opera is built around a basic concept, a kind of stage within the stage: a medium-sized living-room of quite recent provenance with a sofa, an armchair, a TV set and a few other props. During the first scene Don Magnifico, in slippers and vest is half-lying in the armchair in front of the telly, apparently asleep and then the action is transported to historical time, around 1800 it seems. The furniture is cleared away, the armchair walks out on its own and the walls are folded approximately 45 degrees outwards. When it plays in the palace of the prince the walls are folded further and a new set of walls are lowered – the same wallpaper pattern but much larger to mark the greatness of the building. At the very end everything is restored to the living-room of the beginning, Don Magnifico in slippers and vest slumps down in his chair, puts on the TV with the remote control and falls asleep. Everything was just a dream. Cinderella is again cleaning the floor.

The fanciful and efficient sets are paired with action fizzing with life and humour and visitors are guaranteed three hours of unalloyed pleasure. The cast of the performance I saw was composed of uniformly excellent actors, where Rauno Elp was a magnificent Don Magnifico, making the most of his opportunities. His two daughters Clorinda and Tisbe were just as hilariously played by Kristina Vähi and Juuli Lill, who were also splendid vocally. René Soom as Dandini had superb timing and Priit Volmer made a real character of Alidoro. Kestutis Alčauskis as the Prince sported a light flexible tenor voice and apart from some strain on a couple of top notes his was an utterly accomplished reading of the role. Annaliisa Pillak’s well modulated mezzo-soprano was ideal for the title role. She was suitably innocent sounding in the opening canzone and she had all the required power and fluent coloratura for the concluding aria.

It should also be mentioned that the Estonian National Opera have surtitles in both Estonian and English, which of course makes it much easier for foreign visitors to enjoy a performance. This Cenerentola is definitely worth a visit.


Göran Forsling

Picture © Estonian Opera