A prolific composer and master of the opera buffa genre, Gioachino Rossini’s “Cinderella” (La Cenerentola) was brought to life this weekend in a production by the Virginia Opera that featured gifted young soloists, a capable and entertaining chorus, and the always extraordinary, Virginia Opera orchestra.
Unlike the Disney version, Rossini’s “Cinderella” does not include a fairy godmother, a magical pumpkin carriage, or the famous glass slipper. Instead, the story reflects the enlightenment values of Rossini’s time, one in which reason, rationality, and self-determination were prized over superstition and the supernatural.
… an artistic and cultural treasure to cherish.
Cinderella, also called Angelina (Alyssa Martin), suffers under the cruel hand of stepfather Don Magnifico (Dale Travis) who desperately seeks to improve his status by marrying off one of Cinderella’s stepsisters Clorinda (Symone Harcum) and Tisbe (Whitney Robinson) to the Prince, Don Ramiro (David Walton).
The stepsisters are unlikely to attract the Prince’s attention, however, because he is seeking goodness and kindness in a mate, whereas the sisters display greed, self-centeredness, and in the tradition of wicked stepsisters everywhere, comically bad taste in their choices of hat, dress, and hairstyles.
The Prince sends his tutor Alidoro (Karl Buttermann) out dressed as a beggar to determine who of the kingdom’s eligible young women are truly kind, willing even to care for a poor penniless man. While the stepsisters scorn his presence, Cinderella greets him warmly and sets about providing him a meal. When the Prince himself meets Cinderella for the first time disguised as his valet, Dandini (Joseph Lattanzi) the two fall madly in love.
Side-splitting humor, masterful music, and beautiful singing ensue. Cinderella arrives at the Ball, discovers the Prince’s true identity, and hands him one of a matching set of bracelets before disappearing. The Prince must find her and the matching bracelet.
The opera ends with a wedding scene. Cinderella and the Prince are married, and in a move that displays Cinderella’s true character, she forgives her stepfather and stepsisters, and all live happily ever after.
Rossini was one of the great bel canto composers—a style of writing characterized by significant embellishment of the melody and quick vocal movement through registers. ‘Cinderella,’ being an excellent example of such a work, requires singers capable of super-human feats of vocal technique, of which the cast more than meets the challenge.
Martin’s (Cinderella) vocal depth and agility shined throughout the production, particularly in arias “Una volta c’era un re” and the much-loved “Non piu mesta.” Travis (Don Magnifico) combined his lush bass baritone voice with a gift for comic timing in a memorable “Miei rampoli femminini,” and Walton (Don Ramiro) demonstrated a remarkable vocal clarity and musicality in “Si, ritrovarla io guiro.”
Other standout performances include wicked stepsisters Harcum and Robinson, and baritones Butterman and Lattanzi all of whom captured the spirit of opera buffa as well as the vocal style of the period.
The sets (Tony Fanning) and costumes (Sue Bonde) delivered the necessary operatic grandeur, including a dusty old home, a palatial garden, and a spectacular wedding finale.
With this production of Rossini’s ‘Cinderella,’ director Kyle Lang, conductor Adam Turner, and the entire cast have again made the Commonwealth proud to be home to the Virginia Opera Company, an artistic and cultural treasure to cherish.
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
“Cinderella” ran through February 16 at the George Mason University Center for the Arts 4373 Mason Pond Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030. For information about the Virginia Opera Company, click here. For future events at the Center for the Arts, click here.