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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Cenerentola (1817)
Ruxandra Denose (mezzo) - Angelina; Maxim Mironov (tenor) - Ramiro; Pietro Spagnoli (baritone) - Dandini; Alessandro Corbelli (bass) - Magnifico; Umberto Chiummo (bass) - Alidoro; Raquela Sheeran (soprano) - Clorinda; Lucia Cirillo (mezzo) - Tisbe
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Vladimir Jurowski
rec. Glyndebourne Opera House, June-August 2007
GLYNDEBOURNE GFOCD 018-07 [75.12 + 78.00]

La Cenerentola has always been, after the ubiquitous Barber of Seville, the most popular of Rossini’s comic operas. The reasons for this may not be wholly musical. While most of Rossini’s comedies have complicated and sometimes almost unfathomable plots, the story of Cinderella is known throughout Europe - either in Perrault’s version as Cendrillon in France, as Grimm’s Aschenputtel in Germany, or in the English pantomime tradition. Actually Rossini’s librettist Jacopo Feretti does not adhere very closely to the traditional versions of the story. Gone are Perrault’s Fairy Godmother, pumpkin coach and glass slipper; gone too, thankfully, is the Grimm ending to the story where Cinderella’s pet birds peck out the eyes of her step-sisters. Instead we have something much closer to a comedy of manners, with the Prince’s tutor Alidoro instructing his pupil in the ways of the world by demonstrating that Clorinda and Tisbe are only after his money and his title and not Ramiro himself at all. Cinderella has her great aria of forgiveness at the end, employing the music that Rossini wrote for the Count in The Barber of Seville but which is often omitted from performances of that opera. 

Some sixty years ago the Glyndebourne Festival was the source for the first commercial recording of Rossini’s take on the Cinderella story. Those CDs recorded in the studio in the wake of stage performances conducted by Vittorio Gui remain in circulation to this day. Here we have a live recording from Glyndebourne of Sir Peter Hall’s most recent production of the opera. A DVD deriving from performances of the original run in 2005 has already been made available; these CDs come from the revival of the staging in 2007 with some changes of cast from the original.
 
The overture is given a rather rocky performance, none too secure of pacing or blend. Happily the orchestra soon settle down and after the first quarter of an hour are producing the very best sounds that their period instruments can offer. The old Glyndebourne set offered us the recitatives with harpsichord continuo. Here we have the more correct fortepiano-and-cello accompaniment. Again unlike the old Glyndebourne set, we are here given the score complete. Rossini did not compose the whole of the score himself; for the first performances he farmed out the two arias for Alidoro to Luca Agolini. For a later revival in 1820 he himself wrote an aria for Alidoro to replace Agolini’s Vasto teatro. Hwe are given Rossini’s own La del ciel nell’arcano in its stead. This is a dramatic number rather than a comic one, but very far from second-rate Rossini. It makes a marvellous conclusion to the scene in which it appears.
 
From the outset it is very clear that this is a live stage recording. We even hear the sounds of the audience settling none too quietly into their seats before the overture starts. Unfortunately they remain restive throughout, adding their own contributions to the stage noises that punctuate the performance. The source of these is not always clear in the absence of the visual element. Throughout there are problems which leave their mark on the recording; not only the sounds of movement about the stage and the over-ready chorus reactions of laughter, but also points where singers go ‘off-mike’ and where important contributions fail to make their mark. Ithe quintet Cenerentola, vien qua (CD 1, track 6) the heroine’s own version of the theme quite fails to penetrate the surrounding hubbub. Hall’s production, as can be seen from the DVD, is imaginative and contains many visual gags which elicit audience response, but completely fail to make their mark in a purely audio setting.
 
Part of the problem with balance may arise from Rossini’s own scoring. Sometimes in performances using period instruments one finds that the violins can be overpowered by the wind players. Rossini, clearly with this problem in mind and conscious of the players in the shallow orchestra pit of his day, makes sure that the woodwind in particular are nearly always present to add body to the orchestral sound. Unfortunately this can tend to overpower the singers on the stage - even in Rossini’s day critics complained of the noisiness of his scoring. A discreet emphasis on the singers - deprived of the visual element which would bring them forward in a stage performance - would have been desirable to allow them to be properly heard. This is lacking in this recording.
 
The singing is really very good indeed. Once upon a time there was a shortage of singers able to carry off Rossini’s featherweight coloratura which runs all the way through this delightful score. No longer is this true. Every participant in this performance has all the agility and nimbleness that one could wish, and a good sense of comic timing to boot. The result of this is to reinforce one’s wish that one could enjoy the clearly highly enjoyable visual element which raises such uproarious laughter from the audience as well as those onstage. The DVD recording - which comes from a slightly different cast recorded a couple of years earlier, as noted above - would surely be preferable both as a listening experience and as a souvenir of the performance for those lucky enough to have attended. As a CD set, handsomely produced as it is, this is hardly an audio version of Cenerentola for the library shelf. The booklet comes with complete texts and translation, synopsis and plentiful production photographs, as well as a long, informative and personable discussion of various stagings over the years by the always entertaining Rodney Milnes.
 
Paul Corfield Godfrey
 

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