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Performances

Scene from La Cenerentola [Photo by Klaus Lefebvre]
29 Apr 2016

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

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Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Scene from La Cenerentola [Photo by Klaus Lefebvre]

 

On the way back from a semi-staged production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola the driver told me it might not be until 2020 until the site is built. But with two auditoriums in the Staatenhaus, Oper Köln has a very lively production slate. You could easily spend several days here enjoying opera.

Alexander Soddy led the Gürzenich Orchester Köln with amicable enthusiasm. Among comedic timing from the woodwind instruments especially the bassoons popped. The conductor encouraged his strings into a sweeping momentum during Rossini’s frenzied passages. Most of the time he balanced his musicians, the men of the Chor Opera Köln, and soloists with great results. However, in several moments the stepsisters and even in a few instances Don Ramiro were barely audible.

Debuting in these roles and repulsive in full force, Judith Thielsen (Tisbe) and Dongmin Lee (Clorinde) perfectly irritated as the stepsisters: their voices deliberately unpleasant and annoying. They gave the audience plenty of reason to smirk at them. Add to that their nauseatingly pink and green gowns, and they convincingly filled their parts. Carlo Lepore as Don Magnifico belted out his passages with great indignation. Andrei Bondarenko charmed as Dandini, while he vocally impressed with his stamina and musicality in “Come un’ape ne’ giorni d’aprile”.

As he rolled in on a skateboard, sunglasses and all, Scala’s Don Ramiro was more charming than a Disney prince. His regal voice had moments of glory with his great range. Outside of his interactions with Angelina, his highpoint solo occurred in the second act in “Si, ritrovarla io giuro”, where he revealed the powerful reach and flexibility of his voice, as well as his softer side during the subdued passages.

His chemistry with Adriana Bastidas Gamboa could be felt deeply. Indeed they captivated with their duets. While she initially came across a bit stiff in her modesty as Angelina, she lit up in her interaction with Scala. Intense romance brewed between them, as the two looked each other in the eyes. So convincing, it almost felt a bit voyeuristic to watch. You just wanted to leave these two lovers!

While Bastidas Gamboa did not really persuade as Angelina in Act I, she enchanted in her elegant gown suggesting pure virtue in the second act. Was her singing meant to be so different before and after her metamorphosis? In any case, her passionate duets with Scala were the vocal highlights of the evening. Perhaps stimulated by her chemistry with Scala, but Bastidas Gamboa fearlessly produced Rossini’s vocal acrobatics in “Nacqui all’affanno ... Non piu mesta” and received quite the ovation.

There were some cleverly staged bits. The Staatenhaus’s unflattering stagehand uniforms foreshadow Angelina and Don Ramiro’s destiny when they meet in the first act. And the two singers still managed to look good in them. Later, the gowns added fairytale splendor to the scenes. The men in the choir actively made expressive faces in reaction to the minimal acting on stage. Their mimicry amplified the tone of each scene.

This La Cenerentola was a pleasing engagement with swooning romantic moments as well as laugh-at comedy from the stepsisters and stepfather. The audience enjoyed the evening with plenty of chuckles, encouraging with applause and intermittent bravas for the soloists. The sassy elderly dames next to me surprised me with their clear joy.

Green, purple, blue, and orange, Nicol Hungsberg’s atmospheric lighting with its rich colours complemented Rossini’s vibrant score. The enthusiastic audience response throughout also generated a very warm ambience. The encouragingly high number of young folks surprised and suggested the future of opera is far from dead.

While the Staatenhaus is far from inviting, even a bit chilling, this La Cenerentola in Köln certainly lit up the auditorium, especially for a mere concert.

David Pinedo

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