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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Cenerentola - opera buffa in two acts (1817)
Angiolina (Cenerentola) - Sonia Ganassi (mezzo); Don Ramiro, a disguised Prince and her suitor - Antonio Siragusa (ten); Dandini, his servant - Marco Vinco (bass); Don Magnifico, Cenerentola’s father - Alfonso Antoniozzi (buffa-bass); Alidoro, Ramiro’s tutor – Simon Orfilo (bass); Clorinda, Cenerentola’s step-sister - Clara Di Censo (sop); Tisbe, Cenerentola’s step-sister - Paola Gardina (mezzo)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa/Renato Palumbo
rec. live, Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa, May 2006
Stage Director: Paul Curran. Set designer: Pasquale Grossi. Costume designer: Zaira De Vincentiis
Sound format: DD 5.1. DTS 5.1. LPCM stereo. Picture format: 16:9 NTSC
Introductory essay in English, German and French
Subtitles in Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish
TDK DVD VIDEO DVWW-OPLACEN [2 DVDs: 169:00] 

 


La Cenerentola, Rossini’s 20th opera and his take on the Cinderella story is his most popular work after Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The libretto by Jacopo Ferretti is not based directly on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of 1697 but was plagiarised from Pavesi’s Agatina o la virtu premiata, which had its premiere at La Scala in 1814. Originally Rossini was supposed to have set an entirely different work to open the Carnival Season on 26 December 1816. However, on his arrival in Rome in mid-December he found the Papal Censors had rejected the proposed Ferretti libretto. At a late night crisis meeting with the impresario and librettist the subject of Cinderella was agreed, as was a postponed premiere. With less than a month to go before the new first night both composer and librettist had to make compromises. Rossini borrowed the overture from his own farsa La gazzetta, written for Naples a mere five months earlier (review). He also employed a local musician, Luca Angolini, to assist him by composing all the secco recitatives as well as other pieces that are now generally omitted in performance and recordings, most of which follow Alberto Zedda’s Critical Edition.

This production by Paul Curran with sets by Pasquale Grossi and costumes by Zaira De Vincentiis originated in Naples 2004. Curran justifies this by drawing attention to the social conflicts inherent in the social class stresses he sees in the story. It puts the story precisely in 1912 with the magic fairy tale elements restricted to a rather zany winged hat that descends onto Alidoro’s head as he does his transformation of Angiolina. His own transition from blind man is not managed with conviction (Disc 1 Chs. 20). By then the good and more variable aspects of the production and singing were evident and, overall, were successful. The furnishings were rather posh in Don Magnifico’s supposedly run-down establishment, but the slick movement and easy mobility of the sets and drops facilitated quick changes of mood and location as befits the music and the unfolding plot. The whole was kept bubbling along by Renato Palumbo’s tempi and pacing that were as close to ideal as I have heard in this work.

The date of 1912 did impose some restrictions on the costumes. The Magnifico of Alfonso Antoniozzi, with central hair parting, tended to look more an Edwardian fop than the dissolute blusterer we are used to. His lean bass (Disc 1 Ch. 8 and Disc 2 Ch. 3) could have done with a little more colour. The fact that he looked too young to be Angiolina’s father was as much to do with Sonia Ganassi’s rather matronly looks and dress as any fault of his. Cenerentola’s arrival at the ball in black costume, masked like beekeeper and with complex headgear, did little to enhance her role. Although Ganassi sang well overall, and had a thorough grasp of the nuances of the role, there were times when I was aware that her voice had not the ease of flexibility in the decorations that she would have evinced in her younger days. She concluded the performance with a fine Nacqui all’ affano (Disc 2 Ch. 18). I was less impressed with Antonio Siragusa’s portrayal of Don Ramiro. Far too often his stiff facial expression seemed to reflect an excess of botox rather than emotion, particularly towards Angiolina. I have seen comments from an august critic preferring his singing to that of Juan Diego Florez. In that respect I must sit in the opposing corner. For me his tightly focused tenor, as heard here, lacks much in the way of a palette of colour or variety of phrase, although in simple terms he has potential vocal elegance and a pleasing tone (Disc 2 Ch. 5).

As Alidoro, Simon Orfilo sang his aria La del ciel (Disc 1 Ch. 21) with aplomb and deserved his reception. But for me the star of the performance came with the singing and acting of Marco Vinco as Dandini. In a number of Rossini recordings from Pesaro, Bad Wildbad as well as from Opera Rara, I have struggled to see where his lean but musical bass voice was heading, particularly in roles where he seemed to have to reach downwards in the bass register. In his first shot at the pivotal role of Dandini he sings and acts to perfection. His youthful and elegant figure, well costumed as the supposed Prince and later as revealed in his true status, contributes to a consummate portrayal and one that helps hold the production and performance together. He can play it straight-faced or with humour and he plays a full part in the humorous duet with Magnifico, Un segreto d’importanza, as he reveals the fact that he is the valet not the prince (Disc 2 Ch. 7). The stepsisters acted and sang well, although one looked a little past her sell-by date as a potential bride of Ramiro!

With the performance spread over two discs, with thirty and nineteen Chapter divisions respectively, the sound is good and clear and enhances the concise diction of the singers and chorus. The excellent playing of the orchestra is also heard to good effect. There is a fine introductory essay by Kenneth Chalmers in the booklet and several colour photographs of the production. There is plenty of competition on DVD including the classic Unitel film version based on Jean-Pierre Ponelle’s 1973 production at La Scala under Abbado (review). More recently, the admired Glyndebourne production has joined the list. The present production can stand alongside those versions whilst giving a slightly more updated perspective on the traditional story. 

Robert J Farr 


 


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