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Gioachino Rossini: La Cenerentola
12 Nov 2006

ROSSINI: La Cenerentola

Putting the “grim” into a classic fairy tale (whether the Brothers Grimm's or not), this Glyndebourne La Cenerentola from the 2005 festival season establishes a drab, dark mood in its first scenes.

Gioachino Rossini: La Cenerentola

Raquela Sheeran. Lucia Cirillo, Ruxandra Donose, Nathan Berg, Luciano di Pasquale, Maxim Mironov, Simone Alberghini, London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Glyndebourne Chorus, Vladimir Jurowski (cond.)

Opus Arte OA 0944 D [DVD]

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Shades of brown — think the “dun” of Shakesperae's time - dominate the scenery and costumes. Though Angelina (the title character) and her nasty half-sisters dress much as they always do, the unpaternal father figure, Don Magnifico, makes for an unappetizing sight, in his stained and worn clothes, too tight on his large frame, and scruffy, unshaven pudgeball of a face. All his money goes to his two female brats, it seems. meanwhile, in disguise as his master, Alidoro makes for a natty gentleman, and Don Ramiro's stringy dirty blond hair and bland attire make him a more than credible servant figure.

Viewers impatient or displeased by the murkiness of Sir Peter Hall's staging (costumes by Moritz Junge and set by Hildegard Bechter) should exert their patience, as the show gets noticeably brighter and much funnier in act two. Luciano Di Pasquale, the burly, brutish Don Magnifico, in particular comes into his own and makes his seedy, self-centered character into a more enjoyably comic villain. Nathan Berg, who hams it up a touch too much in act one, always sings attractively, as do Raquela Sheeran and Lucia Cirillo as the two sisters, who must somehow be both unappealing and yet possibly “princess” material. Hall does surprisingly little with Dandini, the opera's “fairy godmother” character, and the excellent Simone Alberghini tends to fade into the background too often.

The opera world currently enjoys a boom in promising tenors, especially in the lyric fach, led by superstar Juan Diego Florez. Maxim Mironov takes on a role Florez has made his own — Don Ramiro, Angelina's prince Charming. He has a solid if not spectacular technique, and that sweet, tangy tone of a true Rossini tenor. A subtle, engaged actor, Mironov inhabits the role with grace.

A more qualified success, Ruxandra Donose sings Angelina with a surprisingly deep, even chesty mezzo. Slim and attractive, with an appropriately demure demeanor at first, Donose manages to be represent her character's pathetic state without engaging the audience's sympathy. Her final showpiece has an air of forced elation, which may be due to the dark edges director Hall has cast throughout the evening. The stage even goes almost completely into blackout in some ensembles.

Young, almost amusingly handsome and self-possessed, conductor Vladimir Jurowski conducts with a lightness and grasp of dynamics that the London Philharmonic orchestra responds to energetically. In a 25-minute accompanying feature, he and director Hall share various unsurprising insights.

So not a great Cenerentola, but an interesting and occasionally quite enjoyable one.

Chris Mullins

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