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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Cenerentola (1816-1817)
Clorinda: Raquela Sheeran (soprano)
Tisbe: Lucia Cirillo (soprano)
Angelina (Cenerentola): Ruxandra Donose (mezzo)
Don Magnifico: Luciano di Pasquale (baritone)
Alidoro: Nathan Berg (baritone)
Don Ramiro: Maxim Mironov (tenor)
Dandini: Simone Alberghini (baritone)
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Stage Director: Sir Peter Hall
Extras include an illustrated synopsis, cast gallery and insights feature with Sir Peter Hall and Vladimir Jurowski
Filmed in June 2005 and recorded in stereo and multi-track 5.1 surround sound. DVD Region 0. Subtitles: EN/FR/DE/ES/IT
OPUS ARTE OA 0944 D [2 DVDs: 187:00]

The critics were divided over this production when it first hit the Glyndebourne stage last summer (2005). Not for a long time do I recall a production that caused such a spilt of opinion amongst the scribblers - both paid and unpaid - and this in itself was enough for me to want to see – long after the event – what all the fuss was about.
The work itself was not immune from comment. One normally erudite scribe quipped that “it’s not much of a Cinderella story when all’s said and done”. What I think was being alluded to was the slight reserve that can enter into Rossini’s writing, thus allowing him to stand back from the stage action and comment upon it. Yet there are also times when he seeks to get into the action by using buffo characterisation, which the master musical confectioner captures effortlessly in the score. It is these two elements of the work that can sit uneasily against one another.
And there perhaps is the nub of critical divide – which side does your personal taste lie on when it comes to the performance of Rossini opera? This is a question that Sir Peter Hall develops for contemplation through his staging of the work. His own opinion is that Rossinian farce is all the funnier when given deadpan without playing to the usual routines and stereotypes of the operatic stage. From his resulting production I can say that he only partially succeeds in convincing me. Indeed, where he saw seriousness in the production this can itself be funny, though not in the way he might have anticipated. Take the ravishing beauties Clorinda and Tisbe: they appear caricature comic from the start, with overacted facial expressions and gestures – very far from actual beauty. It is for me Don Magnifico who pushes the envelope too far, lunging all too often into stereotypical buffo stage acting. The fact that Hall let this remain in the production is the greatest indication that he himself might not have been fully convinced that Rossini can stand being played straight. As a consequence this production can be frustrating because despite paying lip service to an idea it fails to see it through.
The singing also attracted critical plaudits and derision. On the whole as far as vocal production goes I find it generally excellent, though again personal taste will enter into it where individual voices are concerned. Raquela Sheeran and Lucia Cirillo are well paired as the ‘delightful’ sisters, and their interaction has a real sense of spontaneity.
Luciano di Pasquale brings vocal agility, insight and - as I said - a touch of buffoonery to the role of Don Magnifico. I am particularly glad about the last quality being there. Without it the soufflé would fall rather flat. Simone Alberghini as Dandini, the nobility impersonating servant, is di Pasquale’s only comic rival here, but his humour succeeds because of the strength he gives to his straight-laced assumption – that is, until the truth is revealed with a masterstroke of Rossinian wit.
Nathan Berg’s Alidoro, who sees good where no-one else acknowledges it, remains a somewhat shady figure, though superbly sung; but just why does he engineer things so, apart from to find his master a loving wife? Maxim Mironov may not be everyone’s Don Ramiro with his high and slightly tight nasal tenor, though I did not find him displeasing. He acts effectively, observing before speaking, which one feels is how it should be with men of real breeding – just look at the alternative as embodied by Don Magnifico!
Ruxandra Donose as Angelina/Cenerentola attracted a good deal of negative criticism for her singing and her portrayal of the role, but in my view this was not wholly justified. Vocally, the voice is solidly produced even though it’s not a mezzo of barnstorming proportions. This means that the asides and introspection that Angelina has to put across contrast well with the more confident radiance of Cenerentola. If there is a slight coolness in her assumption I can ascribe it only to Hall’s non-committal direction. Greater direction in one viewpoint or another of the work - or even the freedom allowed to follow her interpretational gut instincts - may have resulted in greater emotional involvement throughout.
Underpinning it all is the conducting of Vladimir Jurowski: intelligent, well phrased, good dynamic sensitivity too, and all achieved by knowing what he wanted and how to get it.
This is highly recommendable for many reasons, but I stop short of an unqualified recommendation because Peter Hall’s production will either seem appropriate or it won’t. For my money I wish he’d taken a less sober approach to it all. Rossini needs fizz, and this is champagne left uncorked for a touch too long before pouring.
Evan Dickerson


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